Root Canal Treatment
What is a root canal?
The part of the tooth which extends into the jaw and which anchors it in position is known as the “root”. Within the root there are “canals” which contain the soft pulp and nerves at the centre of the tooth. A single tooth can have one or more root canals.
When the canals in the root of a tooth become infected (A), the only procedure currently available to save it, and prevent the need for an extraction, is a root canal procedure. Despite its unwarranted reputation for pain, this procedure is nothing to be feared and is an effective way of helping a patient to keep their natural tooth.
A root canal procedure is performed using a strong local anaesthetic. Once this has taken effect, the patient should experience no more discomfort than any other invasive procedure.
There are two stages to treating an infected root canal; removal of the infected material and restoration of the tooth. An X-ray will always be taken first to ensure that no abscesses are present and if there are, they will be treated before the procedure commences.
Removing the infected material and tissues.
In order to access the root canals of the patient’s tooth, the top of the tooth is first of all removed. This allows the dentist to remove the infected pulp from the root canals and clean the hollow canals to eliminate any traces of infection that may be left behind (B & C).
Once the dentist is satisfied that the tooth is infection free, the restoration can take place.
Restoring the tooth
In order to restore the tooth to a functional state, the canals are first of all filled with a special filling known as ‘gutta percha’. This is a rubber like material that is used to fill and seal the canals (D).
The final part of the restoration is to complete the tooth. In nearly all cases, this is most effectively done using a dental crown. This will not only give it greater aesthetic appeal but also offers the strongest method available. In some cases, a simple filling may suffice, although this is likely to offer less strength than a crown. The restoration method used will depend on the extent of the treatment needed to clear the infection from the centre of your tooth (E & F).
A root canal tooth is, in effect, a ‘dead’ tooth, as the nerves previously stored in the pulp have now been removed. However, the tooth is still functional as long as care is taken to avoid biting down too firmly on hard objects, partially because the tooth may not be as strong as a healthy tooth, but also because you may be less aware of how hard you are biting.
You should also continue to brush and clean around the tooth as you would normally, as gum disease may still occur and threaten the survival of the tooth. Full aftercare advice will be given at your consultation.
For more information about root canal procedures, please call 186 Park Road Dental Practice of Crouch End on 020 8340 7660.