What is root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment removes bacteria or infections from inside your tooth. It can prevent a tooth being extracted or save an infected tooth from further damage.

Why do I need root canal treatment?

Inside a tooth there is a pulp chamber and root canals, which contain the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves. Sometimes the nerve within a tooth can become irreversibly inflamed or die off and become infected (sometimes called an abscess). This can happen if your tooth has decayed or has previously had a deep filling, crown or bridge or has been traumatised in some way.

If you wish to try and save the tooth and avoid having it extracted, then the inflamed or infected nerve tissue needs to be removed. The pulp chamber and root canals need to be disinfected to attempt to kill off any bacteria that may have contaminated the inside of the tooth.

Following root canal treatment in many cases, your dentist will recommend that the tooth is also provided with a crown or onlay. This is to reduce the chance of the weakened tooth fracturing and also to help protect the root canal treatment from becoming infected again.

What happens when I have a root canal treatment?

Root canal treatments can be carried out over one or two appointments and your dentist will advise which is more appropriate in your particular case.

A local anaesthetic will be used to ensure the procedure is comfortable and a sheet of rubber dam will be placed over the tooth to protect the tooth against further bacteria getting into the canals. This will also protect you from the disinfecting chemicals your dentist will use to kill off any bacteria within the tooth.

Will root canal treatment be successful?

In 75-90% of cases, root canal treatment will successfully prolong the life of your tooth. Your dentist will advise you on your particular case.

It is important to appreciate that despite us taking a great deal of care in your treatment unfortunately it is not always possible to achieve a successful outcome and reinfection can occur.

In these cases, it may be possible to discuss referral to a specialist endodontist to have your tooth retreated or it may be that the tooth requires extraction.

What if I don’t have the treatment?

The alternative is to have the tooth extracted. Once the pulp has died, it can’t heal and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth. Although some people would prefer an extraction, it is usually best to keep as many natural teeth as possible.

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