If tooth decay, an infection or an injury reaches the soft inside of your tooth (the pulp), this can cause severe pain and discomfort.
Endodontic therapy, commonly known as root canal therapy, aims to save an infected tooth and restore their strength, without the need for extractions.
What is endodontics?
The term ‘endodontics’ comes from the Greek ‘endo’ (inside) and ‘odont’ (tooth). Endodontists specialise in treating infections of the root canal – the hollow spaces inside the roots of teeth that contain soft tissues, nerves and blood vessels. Many general dentists are also trained and experienced in the practice of endodontics and can perform root canal therapy competently.
Your dentist will usually recommend endodontic therapy if the pulp tissue in your tooth has been irreversibly damaged by disease or trauma and needs to be removed. Root canal therapy involves the roots being disinfected, filled with a synthetic material and sealed. A crown will usually be placed over the tooth to restore its normal function and appearance.
Why save a tooth instead of replace it?
Before endodontic treatment, infected teeth were usually removed to prevent the infection from spreading. Today, extractions are only necessary in more severe cases when a tooth is beyond repair.
In the first instance, your dentist will always try to save your natural tooth whenever possible. As well as helping to maintain your oral health, root canal therapy is generally more affordable and less intrusive than having a tooth replaced by an implant or dental bridge.
Does a root canal hurt?
Hearing the words “root canal” causes many people to flinch, even though this treatment actually helps to relieve pain and discomfort. Pain is associated with the infected tooth pulp, so removing the infection removes the cause of the pain.
Like many dental procedures, endodontic therapy is carried out using local anaesthetic, which numbs pain during the treatment. The treated area can sometimes feel sore or sensitive for up to a few days after the treatment, which may be relieved using prescription or over-the-counter pain medication.
The misguided assumption of pain can be a problem if it causes people to delay or avoid seeking a necessary treatment. The earlier your dentist can diagnose a problem, the easier it usually is to treat.
What is the root canal therapy process?
When you visit your dentist for your check-up or because you feel tooth pain, they will examine your mouth and use dental x-rays to see the roots below the gums. If they decide that a root canal is needed, they’ll explain exactly what the procedure involves so you know what to expect.
After administering local anaesthesia to numb the pain, your dentist will open up the tooth to get to the infected area. They will then remove the infected tissue and rinse and disinfect the area before filling it with a rubber-like material. The tooth will then be sealed with a temporary filling while you wait for a custom crown to be prepared and fitted at a follow-up appointment.
Can I prevent the need for a root canal?
As with all dental treatments, prevention is better than cure. You can reduce your risk of oral infections and needing endodontic treatment by following good oral hygiene every day, choosing teeth-friendly food and drinks and visiting your dentist every six months for your routine check-up.
Make an appointment at our Melbourne dental clinics in Brunswick and Kew by calling us on (03) 9853 1811 or contacting us online.