The root canal is a fine space inside the tooth that contains the dental pulp that consists of soft tissue of nerve and blood vessels. If the dental pulp becomes diseased and badly decayed (or dies), a toothache or an abscess may occur. In the past, treatment would involve having the tooth extracted, but now your dentist can offer you a root canal procedure to save the tooth from being pulled.
What are the symptoms?
Your dentist or endodontist will be the only ones that will be able to properly diagnose whether a root canal is required. Some of the common symptoms however include:
- Pain/sensitivity to hot/cold temperatures
- Severe pain during eating
- Abscesses may form on the gum that won't go away
- Possible discolouration in the tooth
- Uncomfortable swelling around the tooth.
What happens if it goes untreated?
If you start to experience the symptoms above it’s important to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. In most cases, the pain you’ll be experiencing will compel you to do so.
If left untreated the infection will most likely continue to spread in the mouth and surrounding area. This could lead to surrounding teeth becoming inflamed and infected which could lead to the loss of those teeth and, in the worse case scenarios, infection around the head and neck could also occur.
What's involved in a root canal procedure?
The procedure is also known as endodontic treatment and follows a fairly standard step-by-step process. This includes:
- Taking an x-ray to confirm the shape of the root canals and identify where the infection is
- The cleaning out of the inside of the tooth which includes having the infected pulp removed
- The sealing of the tooth usually with a temporary filling in the first instance
- The filling and final sealing once the dentist is satisfied the infection has cleared.
How successful are root canal treatments?
If the canals are able to be fully cleaned and sealed and the tooth properly restored, then treatment has a very high success rate. The treatment may take several visits to complete with temporary fillings and dressings placed in the tooth between visits. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed when an infection is present. The end result is the repair and saving of your natural tooth ridding it of pain and/or infection. This will give you full functionality with your tooth.
How is a tooth restored following root canal treatment?
It is very important that any dental restoration adequately seals the root filling from infection by bacteria in the mouth. Teeth requiring treatment often have large fillings or extensive damage and will require a crown to restore them properly. These teeth are also weaker and become brittle and the added protection of a crown is recommended.
What complications can occur during root canal treatment?
Because the root canals are very fine and curved in some teeth, it may be difficult to clean the canals completely. Occasionally a piece of a file may break off inside due to the strain placed on these fine instruments. Sometimes these are retrievable, but they may also be sealed in the as part of the filling. Pain or discomfort may occur between appointments due to on-going tenderness of the tissues around the tooth, or a flare-up of an abscess or a hair-line crack in the root.
Is root canal treatment painful?
Endodontic procedures have come a long way in recent times with the improvement in technology, development of modern painkillers and skilled specialists. Local anaesthetic and modern painkillers are used to provide comfortable treatment. Usually painful symptoms improve once treatment is started.
What is the cost?
The cost varies and our dentist will give you an estimate after a thorough examination. The cost will depend on the difficulty and the time spent treating the tooth during dental work.