Root canal therapy is a procedure used to allow a tooth to remain intact in the mouth, whilst its nerve is removed.
Every tooth has a nerve and blood supply going to it through its roots which are situated in the jaw bone. In certain situations, the nerve of a tooth can become infected and develop into painful abscesses and swelling of the surrounding gum and tissues.
These oral infections are caused by common oral bacteria that enter the root canals and affect the tooth’s nerve system. Once the bacteria hit the nerve, they can quickly travel down it and into the bone. Once this occurs, an abscess can form below the tooth.
Such infections can be caused by:
- Decay (caused by bacteria) in the tooth penetrates deep enough to hit the nerve (the most common cause).
- Infection of the surrounding gum and bone – leading to infection of the nerve.
- A broken tooth leading to an exposed nerve (i.e. through a physical trauma such as a sports injury). The tooth itself can be sore to touch and chew, or even just sensitive to stimuli such as sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks. Usually a more common sign is a persistent pain (dull or throbbing) that seems to be getting worse. Many patients will even complain of a pain that stops them from sleeping or wakes them up at night.
When a tooth is infected, or has the potential of being infected, root canal treatment may be the only way to save the tooth (as opposed to a tooth extraction); essentially, this procedure involves a form of tooth preservation, so that it can remain in the mouth even though it is no longer connected to your body’s nerve and blood circulation system.
Treatment for a root canal usually comprises of 3 distinct stages
- Stage 1: This is the stage when the tooth nerves removed from the root canal of the tooth. Often this procedure is performed when a patient is already in pain, and can be slightly uncomfortable due to the hypersensitive state of the nerve affected by the bacteria. It is also possible that the nerves are already dead at this point. When removing the nerves, the blood supply to the tooth is also removed (the blood supply carried the nutrients to the tooth to keep it alive).
- Stage 2: In this stage, the main objective is to clean and shape the root canals that housed the removed nerves and blood vessels. The purpose for this procedure is to systematically remove all bacteria from the canal system, and shape the canals so that they can be properly filled to prevent any further re-infection.
- Stage 3: After having prepared the canals in stage 2, it is important to seal the canals to prevent re-infection by bacteria. The material used to seal the canals is a modified rubber-based material called “Gutta Percha”. Once the canals are sealed, it is important to restore that tooth so that there will be no further exposure of the root canal system to bacteria or saliva (which contains the bacteria).
The two most common side effects of a root canal to a tooth
Due to the lack of blood supply to the tooth, the tooth can begin to discolour. Due to the lack of blood supply to the tooth, the tooth can become weak and can fracture or break relatively easily. Because of these two common side effects, it is usually recommended that a Crown be carried out on the tooth as a final restoration. A crown (or cap) is used to sit over the tooth to hold it together and improve the tooth’s aesthetics.
Call 3300 3388 to book an appointment for wisdom teeth removal, family dental or root canal treatment at our Brisbane dental clinic. You can also contact us online for more information.