What is Root Canal Therapy?
Root canal therapy, known as endodontics is carried out on teeth where the nerve tissue internally has died. The dead tissue will slowly infect, causing an abscess.
When a tooth has a very large filling or a large cavity, the nerve tissue inside can get injured and become inflamed and swollen.
At this stage the swelling internally produces intense pain, often waking you at night. The swelling can’t release anywhere since the nerve is surrounded on all sides by hard tooth structure. The tiny blood vessels supplying the nerves are compressed with all the pressure, and the nerve ultimately dies. This dead tissue then becomes infected with bacteria as it putrefies, and the pus spills out through the tip of the tooth root. This produces a dark halo seen on a dental x ray.
At this stage the patient has two options; either remove the tooth completely, or keep the tooth in situ, and just remove the dead tissue inside. The tooth is anaesthetised and the old filling or decay is removed. The hole is made deeper so that all the areas of infection inside can be seen, and then each root canal space is carefully cleaned out using fine rotating files. Debris is washed away and once the canal spaces are clean and dry, they can be filled, often using a warmed material injected into the deepest crevices of the canal spaces. After treatment the tooth is weak and brittle, and will almost always need a crown over the top to protect it from breakage when you chew.
Root canal therapy is demanding and highly skilled, and sometimes we will refer you to a specialist for this treatment. These specialists have studied and practiced for many hours to obtain a second degree in endodontics and frequently work with a microscope in order to save the most challenging cases, perhaps where root treatment has not worked the first time, or where the roots are very curved and difficult to negotiate.