Root canal therapy (or endodontic treatment) is the removal of the nerve from the centre of the tooth and replacing it with a ‘root filling’. This is done to relieve or prevent toothache, prevent infections from spreading and help save a tooth that would otherwise have to be removed.
The nerve inside a tooth can become infected due to decay, a deep filling or trauma to the tooth. Occasionally it can also be caused by gum disease or cracks in the tooth.
Symptoms that a tooth requires root canal treatment involve:
Root canal treatment is usually undertaken over several visits. Between visits the tooth is restored with a temporary filling. X-rays are usually taken to diagnose any infection present and also the shape and size of the root canals in a tooth. After a local anaesthetic, a rubber sheet is placed over your tooth to prevent any bacteria from your saliva entering the tooth while we are cleaning it. We use small instruments to remove the nerve and shape the canals to receive a filling. We constantly clean the canals with an anti-bacterial solution to remove any bacteria that may be present. The root canal treated tooth may need a filling or a crown (if it is a back tooth) to prevent a fracture of the tooth and reinfection.
Generally, root canals do not cause much discomfort, in some cases there might be some mild achiness that can be treated with over the counter painkillers that settle in a week or two.