Endodontic treatment, commonly known as root canal treatment, is a process by which infection or inflammation of the pulp (nerve) is treated.
This can be caused by the following:
A deep cavity
Cracking in the tooth
Breakdown of a filling / crown
Patients may experience severe symptoms including pain, sensitivity to hot and cold, swelling and discolouration, however some experience no signs at all. Treatment involves removing the infected nerve tissue, shaping the root canal and a final filling. Prior to treatment, an assessment is made of the suitability of the tooth for this procedure.
The process generally takes 3-4 appointments to complete, however some teeth require additional visits. Not all teeth will respond to the treatment and continuous assessment is needed.
The first appointment involves numbing up the affected area. Rubber dam is then placed on the mouth to isolate the tooth and an access hole is drilled in the top. Small files are then used to begin the removal of the nerve and a solution is used to irrigate the site. The root canals are widened so that the files will fit inside.At this visit, the dentist will take an x-ray of the tooth so that the root canals can be measured. This is important to ensure the removal of all of the nerve tissue. An antibiotic paste is placed in the root canals and a temporary filling placed in the access hole.
At the second visit, rubber dam is placed back on the tooth and the temporary filling removed. The antibiotic dressing is removed and the small files are used to continue the cleaning process. The tooth is irrigated and some fresh antibiotic paste placed. A new temporary filling is used to cover the access hole.
At the final appointment the rubber dam is used again and the temporary filling removed. The canals are irrigated one last time before being packed with some very thin rubber points. Once the canals are completely filled, the ends of the points are burnt off and a temporary filling placed.
The tooth is then left for a few months before a permanent restoration is designed. An endodontically treated tooth is weaker than a healthy tooth and therefore a crown may be necessary to reinforce the remaining structure.