Root treatment

This refers to root canal treatment; a type of procedure carried out to deal with an infection within the centre of the tooth (otherwise known as the root canal system).

This infection is caused by a number of factors which include an injury, severe tooth decay or a leaking filling.

The branch of dentistry which deals with root canal treatment is ‘endodontics’. 

What is the root canal?

The root canal system in a tooth contains the soft centre such as the pulp and runs from the crown (top) of the tooth down to the root (bottom).

The pulp is a very sensitive part of the tooth which contains the nerves and blood vessels. But this can become infected with bacteria which cause it to eventually die. Bacteria then spread out of the root canal and infects the tissues around the bottom of the tooth.

The tooth becomes painful as a result and in severe cases, can lead to facial swelling. This is a characteristic feature of a dental abscess which occurs due to infection within the tooth.   

Types of treatment

The main objective is removing the bacteria from the tooth before it leads to further damage. This can be done in either of two ways:

  • Root canal treatment (removal of bacteria from the infected tooth).
  • Tooth extraction

Root canal treatment is the preferred form of treatment to an extraction. This is not to decry tooth extraction but many dentists prefer to try and save the tooth rather than removing it. Plus there are problems associated with tooth loss which include both physical and psychological effects.

When is root canal treatment necessary?

Root canal treatment is recommended for cases of severe tooth decay or a severely damaged or broken tooth. But it is also used to repair cracked teeth or to remove diseased tissue around the teeth. It is also an option for those people who have lost a tooth from an accident or injury and require a replacement.

But if a tooth is badly damaged, has fractured roots and the canals are inaccessible then an extraction will be needed.

How is root canal treatment performed?

This can be undertaken by your dentist although you may require the services of a specialist dentist known as an ‘endodontist’. He or she will remove the infected pulp from within the tooth following by a cleaning of the root canal.    

He or she may need to enlarge the root canal so that it can be filled and sealed. This may require several visits before the root canal is ready to be filled. The dentist may place a special medication within the canal which helps to kill any remaining bacteria.

If you have an abscess as well then you will be given antibiotics to reduce the swelling. This may be drained at this time.

The affected tooth will be filled and sealed, possibly with the addition of a crown to further protect it. The reason for this is that teeth which have undergone root canal treatment are prone to fracture compared to healthy teeth so a crown will reduce this risk.

The dentist may suggest tooth whitening or some other form of treatment which will prevent the tooth from discolouration over time.

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