Root Canal Treatment
Root canal treatment is sometimes called root canal therapy or endodontic therapy, and is carried out when the central part of the tooth has become damaged and infected. This damage may be due to trauma or might be due to untreated tooth decay. When the tooth is damaged it allows bacteria to penetrate the inner structures of the tooth, eventually reaching the very centre of the tooth which is called the pulp cavity.
The pulp cavity or chamber contains tissues that include nerves and blood vessels, and if infected these tissues will need removing. Root canal treatment removes the dead or dying tissue and cleans out the root canals connected to the pulp and which extend right into the roots of the teeth. It's an excellent method for saving teeth that have become badly infected as the only alternative would be extraction. Root canal therapy can generally be carried out by your general dentist at Sparkle Dental.
Root canal therapy often has an undeservedly bad reputation, but modern treatment techniques mean the process is very similar to having a tooth filled, and it is something that can normally be completed in one or two appointments depending on the extent of the infection. Often treatment can come as a relief as one of the most frequent symptoms of an infected tooth is toothache.
Why Might I Need Root Canal Treatment?
There are several ways the pulp and the nerves within your tooth can become damaged, and you are likely to experience some symptoms due to the infection. Signs that might indicate the need for root canal treatment include:
Experiencing pain if you try to bite or chew on the affected tooth
Noticing prolonged sensitivity when the tooth is exposed to hot or cold substances
The tooth might look discoloured or darkened
A pimple might begin to develop on the gum near the affected tooth
Having severe toothache
Noticing the gums look swollen or that they feel tender
Occasionally an infected tooth won't create any symptoms
Untreated Tooth Decay, Trauma or Tooth Fractures
The tooth can become infected if there is a deep cavity due to untreated tooth decay that has reached the pulp. If you have a tooth that has been hit very hard then it's possible for the nerves to become damaged and to eventually die. This is something that might happen quite soon after the tooth is traumatised, or it might take years to happen. Tooth fractures can sometimes reach the pulp, leaving very little of the natural tooth remaining. In this case the tooth will need to be root treated so it can be restored, although sometimes tooth fractures mean the tooth cannot be saved and will have to be extracted.
Sometimes it's possible to experience toothache that seems to disappear with the death of the pulp. In fact the infection will remain and will spread to the roots of the tooth causing an abscess. This creates a build-up of pus within the tooth root, and this can lead to a pimple developing on the gum tissue around the tooth root. It's quite possible that the pus will begin to drain from the pimple, and another common symptom is noticing a very unpleasant taste.
If a dental abscess isn't treated then the infection will continue to spread into the surrounding tissues and bone. Antibiotics can help control the infection, but the only way to help clear it up is to have root canal treatment to completely clear out all the dead tissue and bacteria in the central part of the tooth and the root canals.
What is the Procedure for a Root Canal Treatment?
The first step is to have the problem properly diagnosed. Your dentist will need to take an x-ray of the tooth and may carry out various tests such as gently tapping the tooth to see the response and comparing it to that of a healthy tooth. The dental x-ray will enable your dentist to visualise the extent of the infection and the shape of the root canals.
The infected tooth will be numbed with local anaesthetic to keep you comfortable during treatment. Your dentist will access the infected pulp through the crown of your tooth, removing the pulp so the pulp chamber and root canals can be thoroughly cleaned out. This is something that is done using specially shaped files to remove all the infected tissue before the inside of the tooth is disinfected.
If the infection is quite advanced your dentist might choose to place medicines into the pulp chamber to help eliminate the infection before temporarily sealing up the tooth for a week or two and will permanently fill it at a later date. Otherwise the tooth will be permanently sealed. Afterwards it's likely the tooth will need a dental crown to restore it to full function, and sometimes a post might be placed into one of the root canals to help provide extra support to the tooth and to the crown.
It's possible your tooth will feel a little sensitive after treatment, especially if it was abscessed. You might wish to avoid chewing on the side of your mouth for a few days to give it a chance to settle down.
How Long Will Treatment Last?
Most root canal treatments are very successful and the tooth can be functional for a very long time after. In many cases, this does depend on restoring the tooth with a crown afterwards. This will provide excellent seal against bacteria, and also protect the weakened tooth from fracture or splitting. Longevity will also depend on maintaining impeccable oral hygiene including preventative dental care from your dentist and excellent oral hygiene at home. Very occasionally the root canal may become reinfected and will require re-treatment.
How Much Does Root Canal Treatment Cost?
The cost can vary according to the location of the tooth and the number of root canals, but you can expect to pay between $1400 and $1800.