Inside a tooth is a fine channel called the root canal. This contains the dental pulp which consists of nerves and blood vessels. If the dental pulp becomes diseased or dies a toothache or an abscess may occur. In the past these problem teeth were extracted, but now root canal treatment can save the tooth.
There can be a number of reasons for pulp becoming diseased:
• Deep cavities
• Tooth fracture
• Extreme wear
• Crack or chip in a tooth
Sometimes there is no apparent cause.
Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to hot or cold, tooth discolouration, and swelling or soreness in the gums surrounding the tooth.
The aim of root canal treatment (also called endodontic treatment) is to save a tooth that has been badly damaged due to decay, disease or injury.
To improve the chances of success, root canal treatment should start as soon as possible after a problem is identified.
A hole is drilled through the top of the tooth to access the root canal. The infected pulp is removed and the space is disinfected. The canal is then shaped with fine dental files, washed with a sterilising solution and sealed with a final filling.
This treatment can take several visits to complete. If there is an infection present, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed.
Often a tooth requiring root canal treatment will have large fillings or extensive damage, so a crown might also be required.