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Root Canal Treatment
Who needs root canal treatment?
If a tooth receives a lot of abuse through decay, trauma or very large fillings, the pulp of the tooth (which contains the blood and nerve supply to the tooth) can die and become infected. When this occurs there are generally only two options: Root canal treatment or extraction.
Occasionally an elective root filling may be carried out on a tooth. This is usually to allow for the crowning of a very worn tooth, or to prepare the tooth for an overdenture.
How long does root canal treatment take?
If a root canal system is only mildly infected, then treatment is best carried out in one visit.
A grossly infected tooth will require at least two visits. The dentist must ensure the root canal system is sterile before placing the root filling material.
The appointment length varies due to the complexity of the root canal system. Teeth which have only one straight canal can be treated in a much shorter time than molar teeth. A tooth that has been filled for many years in an elderly patient will be much more difficult to fill than an unrestored tooth in a young patient.
Generally appointments are 30-90 minutes in length.
How long do root canal treatments last?
Average life expectancy for a root filling is 8-10 years. This is influenced by many factors. Your dentist will inform you if there are any factors which will adversely affect the outcome of your treatment.
Do root canal fillings hurt?
Treatment should be completely painless.
Occasionally very inflamed pulps will not respond to normally placed local anaesthetic. In these situations you will experience discomfort until the dentist can properly anaesthetise the tooth. Any discomfort you experience is relatively minor compared to the toothache that an inflamed pulp will give you!
After treatment you may experience discomfort for a while, especially if the medicaments that the dentist uses irritate the tissues around the tip of the root. We advise that you take your normal painkiller whilst you are still numb to combat this.
- The top of the tooth is opened so decay can be removed
- Bacterial infection of the pulp causes inflammation.
- The canals are cleaned out.
- The canals are packed with gutta percha (a rubber type material).
- A filling is inserted. Most root filled teeth will need crowning, this is best done immediately, but sometimes the dentist may wish to delay crowning the tooth for 6 months.