Root canal therapy(RCT) is a tooth restoration procedure used to save a tooth with damaged or infected pulp. Once the affected pulp has been removed, it is carefully cleaned and sealed with a filling material. Afterwards, a crown is applied which restores the tooth back to full functionality.
The pulp in each of your teeth is made up of nerves and blood vessels that travel through to the tooth root situated in your jaw bone. In certain situations, your teeths’ nerves can become infected which can lead to pain, abscesses and swelling of the gum and soft tissues surrounding your teeth. This type of infection is usually caused by common oral bacteria that enter the root canals and affect the tooth’s nerve system. Once the bacteria affect the nerve, it can move down the nerve quickly into the hard tissue. This may result in an abscess forming below the affected tooth.
This type of oral infection can be caused by the following oral conditions:
- Tooth decay that has advanced deep enough within a tooth to hit the nerve (usually the main cause).
- Infection of the gum and bone surrounding a tooth which may lead to the infection of the tooth’s nerve.
- A broken or fractured tooth can expose nerves (e.g. a sport injury or bruxism). The affected tooth may feel sore to touch and chew, or sensitive to stimuli such hot, cold, sweet foods and drinks. Another common sign is a continuous pain (dull ache or throbbing) that doesn’t go away. This pain may even prevent them from sleeping or wakes them up during the night.
When a tooth becomes infected, or is at risk of being infected, a root canal may be your only option to save it (as opposed to removing the tooth). Essentially a root canal is a way of preserving a tooth so that it can remains fully functional.
A root canal treatment usually involves a number of visits:
- 1st stage:
This stage requires the removal of the nerve from the infected tooth’s root canal. This procedure is often performed when a patient has already experienced pain. It can be slightly uncomfortable due to the nerve’s hypersensitivity brought about by effects of the bacteria. At this point the nerve may already be dead. When the nerve is removed, the tooth’s blood supply to the tooth is stopped.
- 2nd stage:
At this stage, the root canals are cleaned and shaped. The reason for this step is to ensure that all infected tissue is removed from the root canal system. The root canals are then carefully shaped so that they can receive root canal fillings and sealers.
- 3rd stage:
After the canals have been prepared, the root canals are permanently filled and sealed to prevent recontamination by bacteria. This material used to seal the root canals is a modified rubber-like material called gutta percha.
Once the canals are sealed, your tooth will require a permanent restoration in the form of a filling or crown in order to replace lost tooth structure and make it fully functional. Tooth restoration is also necessary to prevent the root canal system from being exposed to oral bacteria or saliva (which is home to over 600 species of bacteria).
Possible side-effects of root canal treatment include:
Tooth discolouration and a weakened tooth structure can result from a lack of blood supply to the tooth. Crowns are recommended for a final tooth restoration since they are placed over the prepared tooth and can prevent potential breaks and fractures, as well as improve the tooth’s appearance and restore its function.