Root Canals

Inside a tooth is a fine space called the root canal. This contains the dental pulp, which consists of nerves and blood vessels. If the dental pulp becomes diseased,infected or dies, a toothache or an abscess may occur. In the past these problem teeth were extracted but now your dentist can offer you root canal treatment to care for these teeth.

Is root canal treatment painful?

Local anaesthetic and modern painkillers are used to provide comfortable treatment. Usually painful symptoms improve once treatment is started.During treatment a rubber dam ( a protective thin film of flexible sheeting) is used tp prevent saliva and other contaminants getting inside the tooth as the root canal is being cleaned and shaped.

How is a tooth restored following root canal treatment?

It is very important that any restoration adequately seals the root filling from infection by bacteria from the mouth. Teeth requiring root canal treatment often have large fillings or extensive damage and they are brittle due to the loss of blood supply. After a period of time to ensure the root canal treatment is sucessful it is wise to protect the remaining weak tooth with a crown.

How successful is root canal treatment?

There may be up to 4 root canals in a tooth. If all the root canals are able to be fully cleaned and sealed and the tooth properly restored then treatment has a very high success rate. The treatment may take several visits to complete with temporary fillings and dressings placed in the tooth between visits. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed when an infection is present.

What complications can occur during root canal treatment

Because the root canals are very fine and curved in some teeth it may be difficult to find and clean all the canals completely so the infection returns. Occasionally a piece of a file may break off in the root canal due to the strain placed on these fine instruments. if the segment is not retrievable it may be sealed in the root canal as part of the filling. Pain or discomfort may occur between appointments due to ongoing tenderness of the tissues around the tooth or a flare up of an abscess, or a hairline crack in the root, which is extremely difficult to detect. An abscess or ongoing pain will rarely persist following root canal treatment. If this occurs the tooth will require some further treatment, usually by a specialist called an endodontist. Occasionally a surgical procedure may be required if discomfort persists.

Auckland Dental Association 1/195 Main Highway, Ellerslie, Auckland. Phone: 09 580 0081 Email: