Root canal therapy (or endodontics) involves removing infected pulp from the innermost part of the tooth. This prevents infection from spreading and can help save a tooth that may otherwise have to be extracted.
The pulp is made up of soft tissue, including nerves and blood vessels, and extends from the crown of the tooth to the tips of the root. The pulp can become infected due to decay, a deep filling or trauma to the tooth. Symptoms can include pain, increased sensitivity to temperature, discolouration, a metallic taste, gum tenderness or swelling.
Root canal therapy is usually required after dental infection. It can take several appointments, the number will depend on which type of tooth is being treated. Between appointments, the tooth will be covered and temporarily restored.
- Step 1 – An x-ray will be taken to check the root canals and see if there are any other signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
- Step 2 – A rubber sheet is placed around the tooth to keep it dry. The infected pulp is removed under a local anaesthetic and the root canals are flushed with an anti-bacterial solution.
- Step 3 – The canals are shaped with special files made up of nickel-titanium and washed again to remove any debris.
- Step 4 – The freshly cleaned root canals are then filled with a rubber compound to seal and prevent bacteria from entering.
- Step 5 – The filled root canal is sealed with a permanent filling. An onlay or crown may be required to help restore tooth shape functionality. This will depend on the damage to the existing tooth.
Although root canal therapy has a reputation for being painful, the procedure should be no more uncomfortable than having a normal filling placed.