Root Canal Therapy
A Root Canal Filling is a deep filling that seals the space left by the nerve (and blood vessels) of the tooth inside the roots. It is usually performed because decay has progressed so far that it infects the nerve of the tooth and kills it.
Root canal fillings often take a number of appointments to complete. The procedure is often begun when a tooth has an abscess (due to the infection in the root) or when the Dentist finds that the decay in the tooth has spread so deeply that the nerve has become infected.
- After some local anaesthetic to ensure any remaining nerve tissue is asleep, the tooth is often isolated by using a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber, which separates the tooth from the rest of the mouth and prevents any further bacteria getting into the area). After drilling through the tooth to locate the nerve, the Dentist must then find the individual root canals which go down the roots. There may be more than one canal per root. Each canal may be finer than a pin head.
- After finding all the canals, the Dentist removes all the remaining dying tissue from within the canals. This is often done with very fine instruments (called files). The Dentist will often use a paste to help clean the canals and will flush out the canals with a cleansing solution. Each canal has to be gently widened to allow it to be evenly filled.
- To ensure that the instruments are in the correct position (and not out the end of the tooth or too short) the Dentist will usually take some radiographs with the files in place so the length can be judged. This has to be done for each canal.
- Between the Root Canal treatments, the Dentist, may dress the root canal and place a temporary filling over the access cavity in the crown of the tooth.
- The canals are ready to be filled when the Dentist is satisfied that all the infection has been cleaned from each one. Usually a number of very fine thin pieces of rubber are packed with an adhesive into each canal to provide a seal. Radiographs are often necessary to ensure that the seal is in the correct position. When all the canals are filled a permanent restoration can be placed over the cavity to seal it off properly.
Why do I need this?
When the nerve of the tooth dies, it often results in an infection occurring at the end of the root of the tooth (this may form an abscess or gum boil). The infection has to be cleared. To do this the bacteria at the end of the root and out into the bone need to be killed. Antibiotics can provide some help, but the bacteria can live in the end of the root canal and thus avoid the antibiotics. The tooth can be extracted, but this often is not the best choice. A root canal filling is the only other way of getting to the source of the bacteria, cleaning it out and sealing off the tooth.
Sometimes the nerve of the tooth is deliberately removed in order to place a post into the root canal so that a crown (cap) can be placed on a tooth that has fractured.
IS it uncomfortable?
Usually treatment due to an abscess results in relief of pain, although it may take some time for any treatment to take full effect. Over-the-counter pain relievers are usually sufficient to control this problem. Ask your Pharmacist for advice. NEVER take more than the recommended dose and because there are certain pain relievers, anaesthetics and other medications which should not be used in combination it is important to tell your Dentist what kind of pain relieving medication you are taking. Often after the first appointment local anaesthetic is not required but some slight discomfort can be expected after each appointment. If you have any queries, ask your Dentist.
As with all dental conditions your Dentist should be consulted. There are many variations of Root Canal Fillings. Sometimes the tooth may turn a darker shade after a Root Canal Filling.Crowns are commonly recommended to strengthen tooth structure and to improve appearance This may be due to the filling showing through or from staining of the crown which may have occurred early in the procedure. Your Dentist will diagnose and best treat your particular problem. Occasionally, your Dentist may refer you to a root canal specialist (endodontist) to have your filling done.