The aim of root canal treatment (also known as endodontic treatment) is to save a tooth that has been badly damaged due to decay, disease or injury.
Many millions of teeth each year are saved from extraction by having root canal treatment. Most people prefer to save their tooth because generally it will function better than an artificial tooth. Your own tooth is usually stronger and more efficient for biting and chewing.
Your tooth will not be treated unless the treatment is likely to succeed. In some cases root canal treatment may not be appropriate and extraction may be the best option.
General dentists are trained to perform root canal treatment, but it is often best to seek out a dentist with a special interest in endodontics and who has done postgraduate training in the subject. Some patients may be referred by their dentist to a specialist endodontist who has done a full time additional three years training in root canal treatment.
When do you need a root canal treatment?.
The tooth may become painful, sensitive to heat or cold, darkened or the gum surrounding it may become swollen and sore. These are all signs that the pulp is damaged and if untreated it will die and become infected.
What happens when you have root canal therapy?
The dentist will examine the tooth and take an X-ray or radiograph. Local anaesthetic will be given to block the pain. A thin sheet of latex called a rubber dam is used to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and dry during treatment.
To reach the pulp of the tooth the dentist will make an opening in the tooth and using special instruments called files the dentist will then remove the inflamed or infected tissue. Then the dentist will clean the canals and when all signs of infected material is cleared, the dentist will fill and seal the root canal and the tooth. This may require several visits. Several radiographs will be taken to check that all is proceeding satisfactorily. Once root canal therapy has been completed it is usually necessary to support the tooth with a crown as there is an increased risk of fracture without this protection.