If you have been told you need root canal treatment to save your tooth, it is important that you understand why this procedure is necessary and what occurs during root canal therapy.
Root canal therapy is essential when the pulp of your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes such as deep decay, trauma, fracture or it could be related to the breakdown of a filling or crown. Root canal treatment is designed to save the tooth from extraction and to prevent the spread of infection.
Symptoms may include severe pain, tenderness, sensitivity to heat and cold, an obvious large cavity, extending into the nerve of the tooth, sudden discolouration, swelling or soreness of the gums and abscess formation.
To improve chances of success, root canal treatment should be commenced as soon as possible. All canals within the teeth must be treated. Front teeth generally have 1-2 canals and back teeth have 2-4 canals.
Root canal treatment is usually carried out under local anaesthetic although, in some cases, where the tooth has clearly died and is not sensitive, a local anaesthetic may not be necessary. As local anaesthetic does not work in an infected area, the dentist will usually give you antibiotics to settle the infection, before starting treatment about a week later.
Upon completion of root canal treatment a final covering must be placed on the crown of the tooth. This is necessary because all root filled teeth become more fragile and brittle. You may choose either a porcelain or gold crown for your tooth. The crown fits around and protects the tooth like a hat.
A cheaper option would be a white (composite) filling, but these do not support your tooth and you may run the risk of tooth fracture in the future.
Statistically, a root canal tooth that has not been crowned following the root canal treatment has a six times higher fracture rate over a ten year period.