Root Canal Treatment Explained
The “root canal” is the term used for the cavity inside a tooth which contains the tooth pulp and nerves. Root canal treatment, or endodontics, may be necessary when the interior of a tooth is decayed or infected -- and is an effective method of saving the natural tooth rather than extracting and replacing it with a false tooth, dentures or a full crown.
Failure to treat the affected tooth in time can result in the infection spreading and an extraction will become necessary.
- Because the tooth pulp and nerve have been damaged beyond repair, the dentist must remove all the infected material from the tooth cavity to avoid the risk of subsequent infections before filling the void with a special polymer material.
- The procedure is carried out under a local anaesthetic and involves drilling a hole into the tooth through which the dentist will extract the pulp and decayed nerve tissues along with any bacteria, infection and debris. This is done with a series of files which increase in diameter until the required area has been cleared to the dentist's satisfaction. During this removal process, a rinse of sodium hypochlorite or water is used to keep the area clear and clean.
- Once the void inside the tooth has been cleaned out and correctly shaped, it is time to fill the hole. This is done with a material called gutta-percha which is a natural polymer made from latex rubber and this is then topped off with a sealing cement. This can usually be done in one visit although it may require two sessions for larger or more awkward holes.
- While some dentists will seal the tooth immediately after filling the tooth's interior, others prefer to wait a week or so to check for any infection. In such cases the dentist will use a temporary filling to keep out food particles and saliva. In the unlikely event that an infection occurs, the inside of the tooth will be treated with medication before the final touches are completed.
After Root Canal Treatment
- As the exterior of the tooth remains untouched, it will look exactly the same as it did before root canal treatment. On rare occasions, the tooth may darken in colour because of the interior filling but modern corrective treatments can easily restore the natural colour.
- Re-infection is possible though extremely rare when treatment is carried out by a competent professional. Any re-occurrence of infection inside the tooth will result in having to repeat the whole procedure but this is an extremely uncommon scenario. Because the tooth is still a natural tooth - and not an implant or denture - it will require no special treatment and can be brushed and flossed as normal.