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Root Canal Therapy

Steven Porter Root Canal

Root canal therapy is an effective treatment for teeth which might otherwise have to be extracted due to pain and infection. The procedure may also be  described as endodontic treatment. The dental field of endodontics involves the diagnosis and treatment of the dental pulp and the tissues which surround the root of the tooth.

The dental pulp

Inside the crown of each tooth is a hollow space called the pulp chamber. As this space extends into the root of a tooth the space is described as the root canal. Within this space is soft living tissue which includes nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue and other specialised cells.

The pulp plays a very important role in the life of the tooth. It is especially important when the teeth are forming within the jaws and before they emerge into the mouth. When a tooth is fully formed and functional in the mouth, the pulp protects the tooth by responding to challenges from dental caries and irritation from heat, cold and chemicals. However, once the pulp is removed, in root canal therapy, the tooth can still function like a normal tooth and be kept indefinitely.

The dental pulp tissue can become inflamed and eventually die due to invading bacteria from decay. The dental pulp may also die as a result of trauma such as a severe blow to the tooth. The resulting infections can develop in the pulp tissue and extend into the surrounding tissues. The pain from an acute abcessed tooth can be very severe and infections can spread into the soft tissues of the face and cause the face to swell. Swelling and infection from a  tooth can become a serious medical concern. To treat or prevent these complications, the pulp tissue is removed by the process of root canal treatment.

The common signs that a tooth needs root canal treatment are:

  • Pain on biting or tapping the tooth
  • Pain on chewing
  • Prolonged pain with hot and cold, especially with hot
  • A swollen face.

What happens in root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is carried out over two appointments. The first appointment can take approximately 75 minutes. Depending on the difficulty and complexity of tooth, and the number of canals, this time may be slightly more or less.  In this first visit, the pulp chamber and canals are cleaned, shaped and sterilised. The tooth is sealed temporarily between this appointment and the next.

The second appointment is made generally 4-6 weeks following the first. This allows time for the surrounding tissues to heal. At this appointment, the space within the tooth is sealed to prevent any further invasion by bacteria. The tooth is restored at this appointment with a direct restorative material. If a crown is required, further appointments are made.

What can I expect after the tooth is root filled?

Root treated teeth are more prone to fracture as these teeth are often broken down by the process of decay. The treatment itself hollows out the internal structure of the tooth. A crown or a large restoration will be necessary to prevent further breakdown and fracture of the tooth.

If restored well, you should expect a root filled tooth to function just as a normal tooth with the same amount of care and maintenance. Protection of the cusps of the remaining tooth with a full coverage crown is the best option and provides the best sealing to prevent infections ,and best  prevention from  fracture of the remaining tooth, thus improving the overall prognosis.

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