Endodontic treatment is when we perform what you know as a Root Canal treatment. When tooth decay extends into the nerve and blood vessel system of the tooth, a dental abscess will form. There are only 2 treatment options to treat this type of infection:
- Root canal treatment to save the tooth, or
- Tooth extraction.
A root canal treatment is required when the nerve of the tooth is infected. This happens when there has been extensive decay or if the tooth has been damaged by a fracture. Some cases where trauma e.g. accident to a front tooth, has occurred, a root canal treatment may also be required. The nerve of the tooth needs to be removed, for the tooth to be able to be restored. The canals are cleaned and debrided where after it is filled with a root filling material.
This procedure allows us to preserve a tooth, instead of having to extract it.
Why is root canal treatment necessary?
When the pulp of your tooth has been exposed to bacteria, (usually as a result of decay that has entered the pulp system), infection will be the result. Unfortunately tooth infections will not go away by drinking antibiotics and painkillers. This will only help with temporary relief. If left untreated, this infection will spread to the root tip and beyond, producing an abscess, which causes pain, swelling, bone damage and eventually tooth loss. The longer you wait to have an infected/necrotic tooth treated, the higher the risk will become for it to be unsavable.
Sometimes the pulp can become irreparably damaged/dead by other factors. This damage may be caused by a deep filling, trauma, a crack in your tooth & severe chronic grinding of the teeth to name a few. This damage in turn leads to inflammation and, eventually, the pulp tissues will die.
What the treatment will involve?
First, we will carry out a detailed assessment of the problem tooth, using our 3D Cone Beam CT Scanner. This will produce images which are far superior to conventional, 2 – dimensional x-rays when it comes to planning your treatment.
The specific tooth is “numbed” with local anaesthetic using our state of the art “wand”. The tooth is then isolated, using rubber dam (a specially prepared hygienic rubber sheet), which prevents your saliva from contaminating the tooth during treatment and protects you from swallowing any foreign objects.
Your dentist will then prepare an opening in the chewing surface of your tooth to gain access to the root canal system. The pulpal tissue is painlessly removed with special endodontic files. The length of the root is measured using a special electronic locator and confirmed using an x-ray.
The root canal (or canals) are cleaned, enlarged and shaped with special rotary instruments and irrigation solutions. Thereafter, we use a dual-phase LASER protocol to sterilise and disinfect the canal(s).
Once the canal(s) are clean, shaped and dry, the canal(s) are filled with a rubber substance, called gutta percha, which is softened first by warming it, allowing a 3-dimensional filling of the prepared root canal spaces.
After this, the tooth is restored with a foundation filling or core and may, in some cases, be crowned (“capped”) dependent on the remaining tooth structure.
Will my tooth need a crown ("cap") after the root canal treatment?
Teeth which have had root canal treatment are at higher risk of discolouration, cracking and even being lost due to fractures.
For these reasons, it is advisable that a tooth which has had root canal treatment be crowned (“capped”) shortly after. Your dentist will be able to advise you in this regard.
What is the alternative to root canal treatment?
Removal of the tooth is the alternative.
Once removed, the tooth should be replaced as soon as possible to restore the loss of function. Your other teeth take much more strain when one of them has been removed, and this can lead to tooth ligament damage, breakages, and problems elsewhere in your mouth.
Options to replace missing teeth include
- Removable Prosthodontics (“false teeth”)
- Fixed prosthodontics (“bridges”)
- Implant treatment
In the vast majority of cases, removing the tooth should only be considered as your last resort.
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