The aim of endodontic treatment (root canal treatment) is to save a tooth that has been badly damaged due to decay, disease or injury. Treatment involves the removal of infected or damaged dental pulp (nerve); cleaning, disinfecting and shaping of the root canals; filling and sealing of the root canals.
The pulp is the soft tissue deep inside a tooth. The pulp is important for the normal growth, development and health of the tooth. Infection or inflammation of the pulp can be caused by:
- Breakdown of a filling or crown
- A deep cavity
- Gum disease
- Crack in the tooth
- Extreme wear
Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to heat or cold, tooth discolouration and swelling or soreness in the gums surrounding the tooth. If the damage to the pulp is irreversible, it will necrose and become infected. Root canal treatment is then needed to save the tooth.
A local anaesthetic will usually be given to block pain. A thin sheet of latex, called rubber dam is used to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and dry during treatment. Each root canal is cleaned, enlarged and shaped. Anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial medicines are placed inside the root canal to help stop the inflammation and infection. If a severe abscess has formed at the root tip, oral antibiotic may be needed to help treat the infection. You may need several visits to complete the treatment.