Root canal therapy (or endodontics) is a treatment used to save a badly damaged or unhealthy tooth. When a tooth hurts continuously or has an abscess, root canal therapy could be carried out in order to save the tooth. A tooth hurts or has an abscess because it either has a very inflamed nerve, or bacteria have infected the nerve resulting in an abscess. Sometimes it is possible to just remove the inflamed part of the nerve and leave a healthy nerve in the rest of the tooth.
Root canal treatment is a complex procedure which many dentists find challenging. All of our dentists are fully competent at carrying out most treatments. However, we are very fortunate that Dickon has a special interest in this field and accepts referrals from fellow dentists for more complex cases.
The crown of the tooth is made up of the hard, white, enamel layer and a thicker dentine layer. Both these hard layers protect the innermost soft tissues of the tooth called the pulp. The dental pulp contains blood vessels and nerves within and extends from the crown to the tips of the root or roots.
Root canal treatment involves the removal of the pulp tissues from the tooth if it gets infected or inflamed. The pulp can be infected or inflamed due to either deep decay or a big filling that involves the pulp, cracked or fractured tooth due to trauma or tooth grinding, excessive wear of enamel and dentine exposing the pulp, and sometimes as a result of severe gum disease.
Signs of pulp damage may include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, swelling, tenderness of the overlying gums or a bad taste in the mouth. On the other hand, there may be no symptoms at all.
The only other option is to remove the tooth. A root filled tooth can survive indefinitely, so is often the treatment of choice.
Root canal treatment procedures are usually painless as the tooth is anaesthetised with strong local anaesthetic during treatment. After treatment, the tooth may be sensitive or tender for a few days due to inflammation of the surrounding tissues. This discomfort can be relieved by taking mild analgesics or painkillers available over the counter at the chemist. However, if the pain persists and is severe, or a swelling occurs, you should contact us promptly.
We will generally recommend that following root canal treatment the tooth is restored with a protective filling, onlay or crown. Root filled back teeth are highly susceptible to fracture and so a restoration that is designed to prevent this is the best approach. Front teeth can usually be filled in a normal way unless more is required for aesthetic reasons.
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