Endodontic treatment (of which root canal treatment is one type) is carried out when the soft pulp tissue (nerve and blood vessels) normally contained in the centre of the tooth becomes diseased or dies. This may lead to inflammation or infection (an abscess) in the surrounding jaw bone causing pain and swelling at the end of the tooth root, although it can sometimes remain pain-free. An Endodontist is a dentist who specialises in Endodontic treatment.
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The most common reasons for inflammation or infection are deep cavities (caries), repeated dental procedures, cracks or chips. Trauma can also cause inflammation and often shows up as discoloration of the tooth. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
Indications for treatment include prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, swelling or tenderness of the tooth or adjacent gums. Sometimes there are no symptoms.
The Dentist will remove the diseased pulp tissue (nerve and blood vessels) from the centre of the tooth (root canal). The root canal will then be carefully cleaned and shaped prior to being filled, which will help prevent re-infection.
The treatment can be time-consuming because of the skill and gentle approach required but is readily undertaken using local anaesthetic techniques with minimal or no discomfort. Sometimes the dental treatment is completed in one visit, but usually two appointments are needed. For the first few days after treatment, there may be some sensitivity to biting pressure, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. Sometimes anti-inflammatory medications are recommended for a day or two.
Once the Root Canal Treatment is completed you will need to place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect it from fracture and restore it to full function.
The alternative to Endodontic treatment is removing the tooth. Treatment will therefore help to retain the tooth in the mouth: