Root canal treatment is needed when the nerve or blood supply of the tooth (called the’pulp’) is infected through decay or injury.
You may or may not feel pain in the early stages of the infection.
Root canal treatment involves the removal of the diseased nerve tissue in the tooth and filling the space left. The remaining tooth can then be repaired.
If the tooth becomes infected, the infection may spread and this may lead to an abscess. An abscess is an inflamed area where pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues around the tooth.
The symptoms of an abscess can range from a dull ache to severe pain, and the tooth may be tender to bite on.
Removal of the inflamed or infected pulpal tissues will usually lead to relief of the signs and symptoms. The removal of the pulpal tissues is carried out through the crown of the tooth.
Provided it is possible to remove all infected or inflamed tissue, and an adequate filling or crown is placed following the root treatment, the tooth will normally remain comfortable and functional. A successful outcome can be expected in 9 out of 10 teeth.
Root canal treatment is a skilled and time-consuming procedure. It is commonly carried out over two or more appointments, depending on the difficulty. Under favourable conditions, some dentists will complete the treatment in one visit.
Usually at the first appointment, the infected pulp is removed. The root canal is then cleaned and shaped ready for the filling. A temporary filling is put in and the tooth left to settle. At a second visit the tooth is checked and when the infection has cleared, the tooth is permanently filled
Root canal treatment is generally a painless procedure. Local anaesthetic is given to make the treatment as comfortable as possible. Removal of infected tissues will usually lead to reduction or removal of pain and discomfort. This improvement may take some time if the inflammation has spread to the supporting area around the tooth. Even though the symptoms have gone there may be an alteration in sensation in the root-treated tooth, particularly on chewing or biting.
Sometimes a tooth that has had root canal treatment will darken in colour. If there is any discolouration, there are several treatments that will restore the natural appearance of the tooth.
Root canal treatment is usually very successful. However if the infection comes back, the treatment can sometimes be repeated.
The only alternative is to take the tooth out. Once the pulp is destroyed it can’t heal. It is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth. The patient would be at significant risk of developing an abscess. Although some people would opt to have the tooth out, it is usually best to keep as many natural teeth as possible.
Yes. However, because a tooth that has had root canal treatment is more brittle, you may need to have a crown to provide extra support and strengthen the tooth. A crown/onlay is invariably necessary on a back tooth due to there being an increased risk of fracture after root canal treatment.
Pulp damage can cause toothache but the pain will usually end very quickly when the root canal is cleaned out. You get too keep your tooth and avoid an extraction.
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