Root canal treatment
If the blood vessels and nerves inside your tooth or surrounding it get badly infected, and particularly if antibiotics are only going to provide a temporary relief of your symptoms, then we may suggest root canal treatment. Root canal treatment gets rid of the infection, after which we seal the tooth to prevent further problems.
We achieve about a 95% success rate with root canal treatment, allowing you to keep a fully functioning tooth for a long time afterwards. But not all teeth are suitable, and treatment can be costly and take time. We'll always discuss the advantages and disadvantages with you before we begin treatment.
Patients can be concerned about having root canal treatment; these are some of the questions that they ask, with the answers we give.
What does treatment involve?
We first drill through the top of the tooth to the canals at the root of the tooth. We then thoroughly clean out the pulp from the canals, using ultrasound and cleansing solutions. Then we put in an antibacterial dressing and temporarily seal the tooth with a filling.
Once the tooth has settled and is free of infection, we place a rubber seal within the tooth to fill all the canals, and apply a filling or crown to protect the tooth from further damage.
We use state-of-the-art instruments to make root canal treatment as reliable and speedy as possible; we also use new instruments for every treatment so as not to risk any transfer of infection from the nerve tissue in the root canal.
Is the treatment painful?
When a tooth is inflamed it requires more anaesthetic than usual to achieve a good level of numbness; but we'll always make sure that you have the level of painkilling you need in order to be comfortable. If all the remnants of the pulp are thoroughly removed from the tooth, then there should only be minimal discomfort after treatment; you should be able to control this with Ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Does treatment weaken a tooth?
Yes. Loss of the blood supply from inside the tooth causes it to dry out - plus generally a root-treated tooth is weaker because it already has a large cavity. For this reason we usually suggest placing a crown on the tooth to strengthen it.
Will the tooth turn black?
No. The black colour you sometimes see on root canal-filled teeth is caused by blood or bits of pulp left behind inside the tooth, or by oxidation products of the material used to fill the tooth. We use sodium hypochlorite (bleach) to wash out the tooth to eliminate all traces of blood and pulp, and the materials that we use to fill the tooth don't cause staining.
How expensive is treatment?
Root canal treatment is time-consuming so it can be expensive. The fee reflects the number of roots that need to be filled and hence the time taken to carry it out; we also charge separately for the single-use special instruments used.
Does this mean no more problems?
Unfortunately a root-treated tooth can still develop cavities and infection. So it's important for us to restore the tooth very carefully and then for you to keep it very clean. It's also important for you to have appointments for X-rays every few years to monitor your teeth so that we can spot any problems.
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