Teeth – Root canal treatment

Root canal treatment is a dental procedure that replaces a tooth’s damaged or infected pulp with a filling. Damage to the pulp may be caused by untreated dental decay, decay beneath a filling, tooth damage due to trauma, tooth grinding (bruxism) or gum disease. The procedure is also known as endodontic treatment.
The pulp consists of specialised dental cells, blood vessels, tissue fibres and some nerve fibres located in the hollow space in the central part of the tooth.
Success rates for endodontic treatment are generally good. About 90 to 95 per cent of patients who undergo root canal treatment can expect a functional tooth after the treatment. The treated tooth should last a very long time, provided that you maintain good oral hygiene. Of course, no therapy or replacement will last as well as a healthy tooth.
Tooth anatomy explained
A tooth is mainly made of a hard material called dentine. Enamel is the surface layer that protects the visible part of the tooth (crown). The part of the tooth that sits beneath the gumline is called the root. The root is the ‘prong’ that helps anchor the tooth into the jaw. Generally, front teeth have only one root, while molars have several. There may be several root canals in one root.
The hollow centre of a tooth is called the pulp chamber. This area contains the blood vessels, nerves . The pulp is a sensitive tissue that provides oxygen, nutrients and feeling to the tooth. The main function of the dental pulp is to regulate the growth and development of the tooth during childhood. The pulp extends from the roof of the pulp chamber down into the bottom of each root canal.
Once the tooth is fully formed, nutrition for the tooth comes from the tissues surrounding the root. Therefore, a tooth can function without its pulp and, in the majority of cases, can be kept indefinitely. After endodontic treatment, the tooth is ‘pulpless’, but it is not a dead tooth.
Symptoms of damage
A diseased tooth pulp may cause inflammation or infection. The symptoms of a damaged or diseased tooth pulp may include:
* Unprovoked or spontaneous pain
* Sensitivity to hot and cold drinks and foods
* Pain when biting or chewing
* Loosening of the tooth
* Swelling of the gum near the affected tooth
* Oozing of pus surrounding the affected tooth
* Facial swelling.
Sometimes, tooth pulp may become damaged or diseased without presenting any symptoms. In these cases, the problem is usually diagnosed by special tests or x-rays during a dental check-up or treatment for other dental concerns.
A range of causes
There are many events that can lead to disease or damage to dental pulp. Some of these include:
* Deep-seated and untreated dental decay
* Decay beneath a deep filling
* Trauma that damages a tooth
* Habitual tooth grinding (bruxism)
* Advanced gum disease.
Possible complications
If the infection is left untreated, complications could include:
* Spreading infection – once the pulp becomes infected, it loses its ability to fight the spread of the infection
* Localised bone loss – the infection may spread around the ends of the infected root canal and cause bone loss in the jaw.
* Loss of tooth – the tooth may have to be removed, which interferes with the person’s ability to bite and chew.
The dentist will listen to your symptoms, examine your teeth and other special investigations including taking x-rays. These x-rays also help the dentist to plan for the root canal treatment by revealing the number, size and curvature and depth of the roots. Treatment
You may need one or more visits to complete the endodontic treatment, depending on the complexity of the root canals in your tooth. The exact procedure chosen by your dentist. Ask your dentist for further information.