Root canal treatment is undertaken to remove infected and damaged nerve tissue, deep inside the root of a tooth. This is only suitable for a tooth that can be restored after being root treated. The only other option usually, is an extraction.
Why is root canal treatment needed? In the centre of each tooth there’s a core of blood vessels and nerves called the pulp. The pulp sits inside a space called the root canal. If the pulp becomes infected (eg. through tooth decay), the infection may spread through the root canal system of the tooth. This may eventually lead to an abscess. An abscess is an inflamed area in which pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues around the tooth. The symptoms of an abscess can range from a dull ache to severe pain and the tooth may be tender when you bite and can cause swelling around your tooth and jaw.
Sometimes your tooth may look darker in colour than your other teeth, which means that the nerve inside your tooth is dead or dying. Without treatment the infection may spread further into your jawbone and you may need to have the tooth taken out.
What’s involved? The pulpal nerve tissue is removed from inside the root canals, which are then thoroughly cleaned. Usually a medicament is then placed, which may contain antibiotics, inside the root canals to treat any remaining infection that may be present. On a subsequent visit, the now empty root canals are filled to prevent any further infection. Treatment normally involves two or more visits to your dentist.
What’s needed after root canal treatment? Once the tooth has been root treated, it will either need a filling or a crown to ensure that the tooth is functional again. Without either of these, the tooth is still in a compromised state and will not last very long - it will either become reinfected or crack and end up having to be removed.