Endodontic treatment or more commonly known as root canal treatment is a dental procedure that treats the infection at the root canal system or the centre of the tooth. The infection is caused by bacteria that lives in the mouth. Infection often occurs secondary to the following:
- Tooth decay
- Leaky fillings
- Teeth damage as a result of trauma like fall
The tooth is made up of two parts. The first is the visible part on the top of the tooth called the crown. The second part is called the root and it extends into the bone of the jaw. The root is responsible for anchoring the tooth in position.
The teeth also consists of the following:
- The hard outer coating known as the enamel
- A soft material that forms most of the tooth and supports the enamel known as dentine
- A hard material that coats the surface of the root known as cementum
- The soft tissue at the centre of the tooth known as the dental pulp
The root canal system is where the dental pulp is situated. It also extends from the tooth’s crown to the end of the root. It is possible for a single tooth to have more than one root canal.
When is root canal treatment necessary?
Root canal treatment is required when the pulp has been significantly damaged by bacterial infection. Once the bacteria spreads and multiplies, the pulp can die. Some of the most prevalent symptoms of pulp infection include:
- Pain when drinking or eating hot / cold beverages and food
- Pain when chewing or biting
- Loose tooth
As the infection spreads and the pulp dies, the symptoms can disappear for a little while. However, while it will seem like your tooth has healed, the infection has likely spread through the root canal system.
Further symptoms that can eventually manifest include:
- Pain when chewing or biting
- Gum swelling near the affected tooth
- Pus oozing from the affected tooth
- Darkening of the affected tooth
- Facial swelling
Whenever you experience a toothache, it is important to visit the dentist right away so the cause of the ache can be checked. If the pulp has been infected, it won’t heal on its own.
Leaving the infected tooth unattended can also make the infection worse. Antibiotics that treat bacterial infections will not also work when treating infections that involve the root canal.
How is the procedure done?
To treat root canal infection, removing the bacteria is required. This can be done by:
- Removing the tooth (extraction)
- Removing the bacteria from the root canal system (root canal treatment)
In most cases, tooth extraction or removal is not always recommended as keeping as many of the natural teeth as possible is always deemed ideal.
After the bacteria has been successfully removed, the root canal will then be filled and the tooth will be sealed with a crown or filling. Ideally, the inflamed tissues situated near the affected tooth will heal on its own naturally.
Prior to starting the procedure, a local anaesthetic is typically administered. This means the procedure won’t be uncomfortable or painful. Root canal treatments have a really high success rate. In addition, in 9 out of 10 cases, the treated tooth will survive up to 10 years after the root canal treatment.