General dentistry explored: root canal therapy

Root canal therapy, or endodontics to give it its official name, is one of the most common procedures in general dentistry. It has something of an undeserved bad name; even the bravest of patients may feel slightly anxious when their dentist utters those three words.

root-canal-therapyHowever, thanks to modern dental techniques and materials, combined with the skill of the clinicians at Old Windsor Dental Practice, the procedure is pain-free and feels much the same as having a regular filling – although it may take longer, because of the delicate nature of the procedure. It is also worth bearing in mind that root canal therapy is essential to maximise the chances of saving an infected tooth.

The need for root canal therapy

Root canal therapy becomes necessary when the pulp or nerve at the centre of a tooth becomes infected with bacteria. This may happen because of untreated dental decay, or because of an accident or injury involving your teeth/mouth.

Once it enters the tooth, this infection may spread through the root canal system. Untreated, this can lead to a painful dental abscess, and may even result in tooth loss.

Root canal therapy is designed to prevent this from happening, and to save your tooth.

Treatment is carried out under local anaesthetic, so you won’t feel any pain. Once you are numb, your dentist will use the drill to access the root canal system of your tooth, and will use a series of special instruments to cleanse all traces of infection from the root canals. Different teeth have different numbers of roots and root canals, so the length of your procedure will depend upon the nature of the tooth affected.

Once the root canals have been thoroughly cleansed, your dentist will temporarily fill your tooth and let it settle. You will be asked to schedule a second appointment approximately a week later, at which your dentist will check that all traces of infection have gone before permanently filling your tooth.

In most cases a crown will be fitted to your tooth after root canal therapy, both to provide reinforcement and to ensure your tooth has both natural appearance and function.