Heathwood Dental Practice, Crowthorne, Berkshire. Tel. 01344 776933

What is Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment (also known as endodontics) is needed when the blood and nerve supply of the tooth (known as the pulp) is infected through decay or injury. If the pulp becomes infected, the infection may spread through the root canal system of the tooth. A root canal treatment is therefore the process of removing this infected pulp tissue in order to fill and seal the root canals system.
The aim is to ensure that you keep your tooth. Left untreated, the tooth will have to be extracted. Even though you may not have any symptoms at the time, failure to remove the infection may lead to a sudden formation of a painful abscess and/or spread of the infection which may be more difficult to treat and take longer to heal.

How long is it going to take?

This will vary according to the complexity of the root canals, the presence of infection or if re-treatment is being carried out. Your first treatment visit is likely to be approximately 90 minutes to 120 minutes long. To achieve success it is important that the procedure is not rushed. Often it is possible to complete treatment in one visit; however it may be necessary to place an antibacterial dressing in the tooth and make a further appointment to complete the treatment.

How is it done?

An x-ray of the tooth is taken to check the shape of the root canals and identify the infection around the root. Local anaesthetic is used to numb the area and a rubber sheet (known as rubber dam) is placed around the tooth to keep it isolated.
A small hole is made through the tooth into the pulp chamber, the canals are located and measured accurately. A precise procedure then begins of cleaning the canals using very fine instruments. Only when the canals are cleaned and disinfected are they sealed with a rubber based material. This is then normally further sealed with a filling.

Is it going to hurt?

The answer is no! Local anaesthetic is used at every stage of the procedure to ensure your comfort. Following treatment, the tooth may feel a little tender for a few days, but this can be normally controlled with the same medication that you might use for a headache. You will be advised of any need for medication at the end of the appointment.

Is success guaranteed?

Using a high-powered operating microscope and modern techniques, root canal treatment does have a high success rate.

It should however be remembered that it is impossible to guarantee the success of any medical procedure. Even with the best treatment, healing may not occur due to circumstances beyond the control of the dentist. Should this occur, further steps may be required to eradicate the infection.

What happens next?

Following root canal treatment it is essential that you return to your dentist so that the tooth can be properly restored. Crowns are often placed on teeth after they have undergone successful root canal treatment. Since the nerve and blood vessels have been removed from the tooth during the process, vital feedback about the force with which you are biting is lost. The tooth structure is also more brittle. This often leads to excessive loads of the tooth and therefore a greater risk of fracture. It also reinforces the all important seal around the tooth to prevent further bacterial invasion.