Root Canal Therapy

Nothing is as good as a natural tooth! And sometimes your natural tooth may need root canal (endodontic) treatment for it to remain a healthy part of your mouth.

Most patients report that having root canal (endodontic) treatment today is as normal as having a filling.

Root Canal therapy is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, an injury to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

What are the signs of needing root canal treatment?

Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discolouration of the tooth, swelling, and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gingival tissues. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms.

What is the dental pulp?

The pulp is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. It lies within the tooth and extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the root in the bone of the jaws.

What happens if the pulp gets injured?

When the pulp is diseased or injured and can’t repair itself, it dies. The most common cause of pulp death is a cracked tooth or a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let germs (bacteria) enter the pulp. Germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. Left without treatment, 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.

Why does the pulp need to be removed?

When the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result. Certain byproducts of the infection can injure your jawbones. Without treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.

How does root canal therapy save the tooth?

Treatment often takes from one to three visits. To save the tooth, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed from the root canal by careful cleaning and shaping of the canal. The canals are then sealed completely to prevent re-infection. After this treatment, a crown or other restoration is placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function.

What does treatment involve?

  1. First, an opening is made through the crown of the tooth into the pulp chamber.
  2. The pulp is then removed. The root canal(s) is cleaned, enlarged and shaped to a form that can be filled.
  3. Medications may be put in the pulp chamber and root canal(s) to help get rid of germs and prevent infection.
  4. A temporary filling is then placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits. We may leave the tooth open for a few days to drain. You might also be given medication to help control infection that may have spread beyond the tooth.
  5. In a subsequent appointment, the temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal(s) are cleaned, filled and sealed.
  6. In the final step, a crown is usually placed over the tooth.

Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?

Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anaesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.

For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. We will advise you as to the best pain relief available.

Will the tooth need any special care or additional treatment after endodontic treatment?

You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by us. The unrestored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should book your next appointment for a full restoration as soon as possible. In the meantime, you need only practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings.

What causes an endodontically treated tooth to need additional treatment?

New trauma, deep decay, or a loose, cracked or broken filling can cause new infection in your tooth. In some cases, the endodontist may discover additional very narrow or curved canals that could not be treated during the initial procedure.

Can all teeth be treated endodontically?

Most teeth can be treated. Occasionally, a tooth can’t be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the root is severely fractured, the tooth doesn’t have adequate bone support, or the tooth cannot be restored. However, advances in endodontics are making it possible to save teeth that even a few years ago would have been lost. When endodontic treatment is not effective, endodontic surgery may be able to save the tooth.