As dental professionals, we do our best to help you keep your own teeth. This means, however, that we must sometimes perform a root canal to ease discomfort in a diseased tooth or even save the tooth from being pulled or replaced.
Anatomy of the tooth
Teeth are composed of three hard layers: enamel, dentine and cementum.
Inside each tooth is the root canal system, filled with a soft dental pulp consisting of nerves and blood vessels that help the tooth develop. Once a tooth is fully grown, it can survive without the pulp, but if the pulp is damaged or becomes infected, your dentist will have to intervene. The treatment is called root canal therapy or endodontic treatment.
When is a root canal needed?
The dental pulp can be damaged by a crack in the enamel, by deep decay or by an accident. Bacteria can then penetrate the tooth and infect the pulp, which can cause pain or inflammation. Sometimes the pulp become infected or die without pain.
Most of the time, the tooth can be saved by a root canal, but there are some rare cases when the tooth will have to be pulled. Your dentist will want to discuss the options with you.
How it’s done
- After giving you a local anaesthetic, the dentist drills a small opening in the tooth to reach the root canal system and pulp.
- The dentist then meticulously cleans out the pulp and fills the void with a rubber-like material that will be melted to bond with the tooth.
- Finally, the dentist seals the opening with either a temporary or permanent filling to make your tooth look as natural as possible. If your remaining tooth is too weak, other dental restorations (such as a crown) may have to be considered.
For the treatment to be a success, your dentist may prescribe antiseptic treatments and special brushing to be done at home – or even antibiotics.
Micro-endodontics consists in using a dental microscope during a root canal treatment (endodontic treatment). Our Carl Zeiss dental microscope greatly improves our vision by illuminating and enlarging the infected tooth
Things to remember
Although a root canal can be performed in one appointment, it may take several visits depending on the degree of pulp damage or spread of infection. Also, after the treatment, you will probably experience tenderness in and around the tooth.
Your dentist is there to walk you through the different steps so don’t be afraid to ask questions!