Root canal facts

Q. What is root canal treatment?

A. Root canal treatment is a procedure used to treat a tooth when bacteria infect the nerve and blood vessels inside the tooth. This is also known as the pulp and can become infected following decay in a tooth extending past the enamel and the dentine into the pulp chamber in the centre.

This can be from a tooth which has been left untreated for too long or can happen underneath an old filling or crown. If a tooth suffers severe trauma and fractures, this can cause an entry point for bacteria and the pulp can get infected even without decay.

When the pulp gets infected the main symptoms can be tenderness and pain when biting as well as extreme sensitivity to hot or cold. Antibiotics have a limited capability to treat infections here leaving two treatment options.

Your dentist will extract the infected tooth or attempt to save it by completing root canal treatment. Root canal treatment has been reported by most studies to have a success rate of 80-90 per cent.

During treatment, the pathways that the nerve and blood vessels extend into the teeth need to be cleaned and sealed to reduce the amount of bacteria in the tooth, giving your body a chance to heal the infection. Teeth can have one or multiple root canals.

A side-effect of completing the treatment is weakening the tooth as the canal needs to be enlarged to allow adequate cleaning. So these teeth often have crowns placed to give the tooth more strength and a better seal on the top of the tooth.

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