Root canal treatment is sometimes the only alternative to tooth extraction.
It is indicated in a number of situations :
- deep decay, reaching the dental pulp and the nerve
- a broken tooth that cannot be restored with a filling
- pulp irritated by trauma
- extensive restoration
- a tooth that requires a crown, but also the additional support of a post
Under such conditions, you may also experience pain or develop a dental infection (abscess). Root canal treatment will save your tooth and eliminate the associated discomfort, pain or swelling. It will also let you chew normally and preserve your appearance.
Steps in treatment
- Root canal treatment consists in removing the inflamed or infected pulp, which is the soft tissue inside the tooth channel containing the nerves and blood vessels.
- After administering local anaesthetic, the dentist makes a hole in the tooth to access and remove the damaged pulp. He or she then enlarges and disinfects the canal and fills it with cement and a rubber-like material called gutta percha.
- Once the inside of the tooth has been thoroughly cleaned and sealed, the treatment is completed by restoring the part of the tooth above the gumline. This may be done with a conventional filling, a ceramic restoration or a crown, depending on the condition of the tooth. A post may be required.
General dentists are trained to perform root canals, but may refer more complex cases to an endodontist (root canal specialist), if they result from dental trauma or require certain types of surgery.
Depending on the condition of the pulp, the infection or the patient’s discomfort level, root canal treatment may require several visits to the dentist. The treatment has a relatively high success rate, but because of its delicate nature, some parts of the treatment may have to be repeated if the results prove unsatisfactory.