Endodontics or Root Canal Treatment, involves treating a tooth when the pulp/nerve becomes diseased or injured and unable to repair itself. If left untreated, the tooth can cause infection/abscess, extreme pain/toothache, facial swelling, sensitivity to hot/cold, pain when eating or referred pain to other areas of the mouth.
Root canal treatment involves removing the pulp/nerve from within the tooth and sealing the canals with a material that prevents bacteria from re-entering the tooth. Don’t be alarmed – this is generally a painless procedure and performed under local anaesthetic! However in extreme cases where facial swelling and severe toothache are present, there may still be some sensitivity during the procedure.
Once root canal treatment has been completed, which is usually within 2-3 visits, over time the tooth will become brittle. This is due to the nerve and bloody supply being removed making the tooth ‘dead’. Therefore a crown is recommended to strengthen and protect the tooth, and to prevent it from fracturing.
Why does the pulp need to be removed?
If the damaged or diseased pulp is not removed, the tooth and surrounding tissues become infected. Pain and swelling may accompany the infection. Even in the absence of pain, certain by-products of a diseased pulp can injure the bone that anchors your tooth in the jaw. Without endodontic treatment, your tooth will eventually have to be removed.
What does endodontic treatment involve?
Treatment usually requires from one to three appointments. During these treatments, your dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in disorders of the pulp) removes the diseased pulp. The pulp chamber and root canal(s) of the tooth is then cleaned, shaped, filled and sealed to prevent recontamination of the root canal system.
Why couldn’t you just remove the tooth?
The choice is yours but there are many disadvantages to losing a tooth. When a tooth is removed and not replaced, the teeth next to the empty space begin to shift from their normal position. This may cause teeth to become crooked or crowded, which then decreases chewing and biting efficiency. Crowded or crooked teeth may be more prone to dental disease because they are harder to keep clean than properly aligned teeth. As a result, other teeth may be lost if the missing tooth is not replaced.
A replacement tooth (an implant or a bridge) is usually more expensive than endodontic treatment and involves more extensive dental procedures on adjacent teeth. Endodontic treatment can safely and comfortably save a tooth that otherwise would have to be removed. In fact, root canal therapy is successful approximately 90% of the time. Remember, a healthy restored tooth is always better than an artificial one.
How long will the restored tooth last?
Your endodontically treated and restored tooth is an excellent medium term option (5-15 years), if you continue to care for your teeth and gums. As long as the root(s) of an endodontically treated tooth are properly nourished by the surrounding tissues, your tooth will remain healthy.