Root canal therapy is treatment used to repair and save a tooth that has been infected due to a deep cavity or cracked tooth. The treatment involves removing the pulp and the nerves in the middle of the tooth, and cleaning the infected area. A tooth’s pulp and nerve is not important to a tooth’s health and function after the tooth has fully emerged from the gums. If the treatment is not performed, infection of the nerve can spread into the surrounding bone which may spread for years unnoticed. However, it is more likely that an acute infection will develop, which will probably require removal of the tooth.
What are the signs that a root canal is needed?
- Severe tooth pain while chewing
- Your tooth pain wakes you up at night
- Teeth that are highly sensitive to hot or cold, with the sensitivity lingering for some time.
- Discolouration or darkening of the tooth
- Swollen gums in the area of the infected tooth
What does the treatment involve?
First, an opening is made into the pulp chamber (middle of the tooth) through the crown of the tooth.. Once the pulp is removed, the root system is thoroughly cleaned. If the dentist decides to complete the root canal therapy in multiple visits, a temporary filling will be placed to protect the tooth. When you return, the dentist will remove the temporary filling, re-clean the root canal and pulp chamber, fill the root canal system with a plastic like filling material, and place a permanent filling and / or crown over the tooth.
Root canal therapy has a high rate of success (>95%) and many teeth undergoing the procedure can be saved to last a lifetime. However, root canal treated teeth are more brittle and they are more susceptible to fracture. As a result, it is highly recommended that root canal treated teeth are protected with crowns to prevent future breakage.