Root canal treatment

What is root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment (endodontics) is a dental procedure used to repair or save a tooth that has been infected with a bacterial infection. The part of the tooth affected is the centre of the tooth (the root canal) which is comprised of soft tissue and the tooth’s nerve.

Why is it done?

Root canal treatment is done to treat infection in the root canal of a tooth, the part of the tooth below the crown, that extends into the jaw and anchors the tooth. This central part of the tooth consists of what’s called dental pulp which is soft tissue. The infection could be caused by tooth decay, a leaky filling or trauma. Root canal treatment is only carried out when an x-ray shows that a bacterial infection is present. An infection in the root canal cannot be cured with antibiotics alone.

What does it involve?

First, the bacteria from the root canal is removed by removing the pulp or centre of the tooth and removing the nerve. Then the tooth is filled and sealed with either a filling or a crown. Sometimes the patient may want to have the tooth extracted, however, this is not normally recommended.

How do you prepare for it?

Before treatment, the patient will be given a local anaesthetic, to ensure that they feel no pain during the treatment. The treatment may require more than one dental visit.

Aftercare

After treatment, the tooth may be sensitive for a few days and any hard or sticky foods should be avoided until the tooth fully heals. Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol can be taken to reduce inflammation and to relieve any discomfort. It’s important after treatment to take care of your teeth to avoid any further infections by:

  • Maintaining good oral hygiene

  • Cutting back on sugary foods

  • Quitting smoking

Alternatives to root canal treatment

The only alternative treatment to root canal is tooth extraction, followed by replacing the tooth with a bridge, implant or removable denture to restore chewing ability and to prevent neighbouring teeth from shifting. These procedures are more expensive and time-consuming and will require adjacent treatments.

What specialist carries out root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is carried out by an endodontist or a dentist.

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