When the nerve of a tooth, or the root canal, becomes infected it's not the end of your tooth's life. A successful root canal treatment can allow you to keep your tooth. Keeping your tooth can not only prevent your other teeth from drifting, causing jaw pain, but you can also avoid having to replace your tooth with an artificial one.
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a collection of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue which help the root of your teeth grow during developmental stages. This collection is called the pulp; this layer lives as a third layer to your tooth, below the surface layer of enamel and secondary hard layer called dentin.
Problems and symptoms can appear if your root canal is damaged or infected. Examples could include increased sensitivity and pain in the tooth or gums and ineffective chewing. Having a damaged and worn tooth also offers less protection to the teeth around it, putting them more at risk of damage from stains and excessive wear. Other symptoms of infected pulp can include visible swelling on the tooth and gums, sensitivity to temperature and sharp pain in the tooth.
If you experience any of these symptoms, your dentist may recommend root canal therapy to eliminate the infected pulp. Root canal therapy has saved many peoples' natural smiles, preventing the need to remove every infected tooth.
How is Root Canal Therapy Done?
During root canal therapy, your dentist will often give you a local anaesthetic to prevent pain during the procedure. A small barrier of rubber is usually packed around your tooth to protect it from bacteria in your saliva during the treatment.
Your dentist will then make an opening in the tooth to reach the root canal system and infected pulp. This opening is a small hole in the tooth that is usually not noticeable, and will be filled in later in the procedure. The pulp is removed and the root canal system is cleaned and enlarged, allowing it to fill in some space.
After the root canal has been cleaned, your dentist will fill and seal the canal, preventing further bacteria build-up. The final step to the procedure is sealing the opening in the tooth with either a temporary or a permanent filling.
After a root canal treatment is performed, your tooth must be restored to look, feel and work as it did before the procedure. If an endodontist performed your root canal treatment, they will fill the hole in the tooth with a temporary filling. They may also send you to a prosthodontist for a more thorough tooth restoration.