Root canal treatment, aka endodontics, is a dental procedure used to treat infection at the centre of a tooth.
Why root canal therapy?
Root canal treatment can save a tooth that might otherwise have to be removed completely. Besides it is not painful.
The root canal refers to the centre of a tooth. The root canal:
- contains the dental pulp, the soft tissue at the centre of the tooth
- extends from the crown of the tooth, the top part of the tooth that's visible in the mouth, to the end of the tooth's root
Root canal treatment is only required when dental X-rays show that the pulp is damaged by a bacterial infection.
The pulp will begin to die if it's infected by bacteria, allowing the bacteria to then multiply and spread.
Symptoms of root canal infection
Pulp infection symptoms include:
- pain when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drink
- pain when biting or chewing
- a loose tooth
The worst part about pulp infection is that these symptoms fade away as the pulp dies! You think that your tooth has healed. But the infection has in fact spread through the root canal system!
This results in further symptoms such as:
- pain when biting or chewing making a comeback
- swelling of the gum near the affected tooth
- facial swelling
- the tooth becoming a darker colour
- pus oozing from the affected tooth
Please do see a dentist if you develop any of the symptoms above.
How is root canal infection treated?
The bacteria need to be removed. How?
Tooth removal (extraction)
This is not recommended as it's better to keep as many of your natural teeth as possible.
Root canal treatment
Before having root canal treatment, a local anaesthetic is applied. This makes the procedure painless and no more unpleasant than having a filling.
After the bacteria is removed, the root canal is filled and the tooth sealed with a filling or crown:
Root canal treatment has a high success rate. A tooth can survive for up to 10 years after root canal treatment in 90% of the cases.
Root canal treatment recovery
Look after your teeth during recovery:
- avoid biting on hard foods until your treatment
- expect discomfort while your tooth heals, over-the-counter painkillers can help
- maintain good oral hygiene
- avoid sugary food
- a good reason to quit smoking!