When a tooth’s pulp becomes infected, we can use endodontics, or root canal treatment, to save the tooth. The pulp is made up of soft tissue including nerves and blood vessels and extends from the crown to the tips of the root. This can get infected due to decay, a deep filling or trauma to the tooth.
It’s important for us to know as soon as possible when you have an infected tooth as root canal treatment can prevent us from extracting the tooth. Symptoms can include pain, increased sensitivity to temperature, discolouration, a metallic taste, gum tenderness or swelling.
Root canal therapy usually requires several appointments, the number will depend on which type of tooth is being treated. Between appointments, the tooth will be covered and temporarily restored.
- An x-ray will be taken to check the root canals and see if there are any other signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
- A rubber sheet is placed around the tooth to keep it dry. The infected pulp is removed under a local anaesthetic (if necessary) and root canals are flushed with an anti-bacterial solution.
- The canals are shaped with tiny instruments and washed again to remove any debris.
- The freshly cleaned root canals are then filled with a rubber compound to seal the tooth and prevent bacteria from entering.
- The filled root canal is sealed with a permanent filling or may need a crown to help restore tooth shape and functionality.
Although root canal therapy has a reputation for being painful, the procedure should be no more uncomfortable than having a normal filling – which should be painless!
The alternative is to have the tooth out. Once the pulp is destroyed it can’t heal, and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth.
Although some people would prefer the tooth out, it is usually best to keep as many natural teeth as possible.
Yes. However, because a ‘dead’ tooth is more brittle, you may need to have a crown to provide extra support and strength to the tooth.
Root canal treatment is usually very successful. However, if the infection comes back, the treatment can sometimes be repeated.