Root Canal Treatment

If you need root canal treatment (root filling), it is because the nerve in one of your teeth has become infected or has become ‘non-vital’. As you may be aware, your teeth are made up of Enamel (the hard outer covering), then Dentine (the soft inner layer) and finally the Pulp (the centre of the tooth). In a healthy tooth, pulp contains living tissue as well as the tooth’s blood and nerve supply, and it extends down the root of the tooth through a small opening called the apex and into the jawbone.

Tooth pulp/nerve can die or become non-vital for a number of reasons, including trauma, treatment or infection. Unfortunately, when the pulp within your tooth dies, it can form a dental abscess, which – as you may know from personal experience – can be extremely painful and involves an acute swelling or ‘gum boil’. That being said, some abscesses can lie dormant and symptom-free for long periods of time.

When we carry out root canal treatment, we take away the dead, infected pulp tissue, disinfect the root canal and then fill the space within the root with a special inert rubber-based material. Root canal treatment may require several lengthy appointments.

What Happens When You Have Root Canal Treatment?

If we think that root canal treatment might be necessary, we will take a dental radiograph (x-ray) of the tooth. This will show us how many roots a tooth has and whether there is any infection within the root.

Although the tooth is dead, we will give you a local anaesthetic to ensure that your treatment is as comfortable as possible. Once the anaesthesia has taken full effect, we will make a small opening through the top of the tooth to remove all decayed tooth tissue and to access the pulp chamber itself.

We will then place a thin sheet of rubber on a frame over your tooth to isolate it from and protect the rest of your mouth-this is called a ‘Rubber Dam’. Using fine, small instruments called files; we will remove the dead pulp tissue from the root canal, then disinfect the area and then fill the cavity with a special rubber type material. Alternatively, we might need to dress the area with an antibacterial dressing, place a temporary filling and ask you to return for a second appointment.

We always recommend that you have a dental crown/cap on any tooth after you’ve had root canal treatment. This is because the natural crown of the tooth that remains may become structurally brittle and more prone to fractures and splitting, as well as discolouration, once it has had the root filling procedure. A crown also seals the internal chambers of the tooth from the oral environment.

Alternatively, if we feel it is too complex to perform the root canal treatment at all (for example, if your tooth has very curved roots), then we may decide instead to refer you to a Specialist Endodontist for your root canal treatment, (this is a dentist that specialises in carrying out this procedure).