Root canal therapy has saved more teeth than you can imagine! Before root canal therapy came along, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, chances are you would lose that tooth.
Deep beneath each tooth’s outer shell is an area of soft tissue called the pulp, which carries the tooth’s nerves, veins, arteries and lymph vessels. Root canals are very small, thin divisions that branch off from the top pulp chamber down to the tip of the root. A tooth has between one and four root canals.
When the pulp becomes infected, usually from a deep cavity or fracture that allows bacteria to creep in, or injury due to trauma, it can die. Damaged or dead pulp causes increased blood flow and cellular activity, and pressure cannot be relieved from inside the tooth. Pain in the tooth is commonly felt when biting down, chewing or with very hot or cold foods and drinks.
Left untreated, pus builds up at the root tip in the jawbone, forming a ‘pus-pocket’ called an abscess. An abscess can cause damage to the bone around the teeth. Without root canal therapy, the tooth may have to be pulled, causing surrounding teeth to shift crookedly, and resulting in a bad bite. The space left behind may require an implant or a bridge, which can be more expensive than root canal therapy.
Root canal therapy is performed in order to save the damaged or dead pulp in the root canal of the tooth. The procedure involves cleaning out the diseased pulp and reshaping the canal. The canal is filled with a rubber-like material to prevent recontamination of the tooth. The tooth is then permanently sealed with either a post or gold or porcelain crown. This enables you to keep most of your original tooth.
In most cases, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort involving one to three visits.
The steps in the procedure are:
- A local anaesthetic is used to numb the area.
- A rubber sheet may be placed around the tooth to isolate it.
- Access is drilled from the crown to the pulp chamber.
- The diseased sections are removed and the remainder reshaped.
- Medication may be inserted into the area to kill any remaining bacteria and to prevent any further infection.
- Depending on your tooth’s condition, the crown may be temporarily sealed to guard against infection or the tooth is left open to drain.
- The temporary seal is removed and the pulp chamber and canal(s) filled with a rubber-like material. If the tooth is still weak, a post may be inserted above the canal filling to reinforce the tooth.
- The area is permanently sealed.
- A gold or porcelain crown is placed over the tooth to strengthen it and improve its appearance.
Root canal therapy is able to save a diseased tooth in over 95% of cases.