How successful is root canal treatment?
Inside a tooth is a fine space called the root canal. The root canal contains the dental pulp which consists of nerves and blood vessels. If the dental pulp becomes diseased 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.
Root canal treatment is most often needed for the relief of pain. Number of conditions can lead to irreversible damage of the dental pulp. The most common are dental decay, deep filling restorations, trauma, tooth fracture, and infection. Sometimes there is no apparent cause
Initially there is an examination with x-rays and special tests to assess the health of the dental pulp and surrounding tissues. Sometimes it is quite difficult to identify which tooth is the cause of pain.
Usually a latex sheet called a rubber dam is placed around the tooth to isolate it from the mouth during the procedure. Access to the root canals is gained by drilling a hole through the top of the tooth. The root canal is measured for length and then cleaned and shaped with fine dental files and rotary instruments. The root canals are washed with sterilising solution and then sealed near to their tip with permanent root filling. The tooth is now restored back into useful function.
Local anaesthetic and modern painkillers are used to provide comfortable treatment. Usually painful symptoms improve once treatment is started.
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 will require a crown to restore them properly. These teeth are also weaker and the added protection of a crown is recommended.
If 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.
Because the root canals are very fine and curved in some teeth it may be difficult to clean the canals completely. Occasionally a piece of a file may separate in the root canal due to strain placed on these fine instruments. Sometimes these are retrievable but they may also 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, a flare up of an abscess or hair-line crack in the root.
An abscess or ongoing pain will rarely persist following root canal treatment. If this occurs the tooth will require some further treatment. Occasionally an additional surgical procedure may be required if discomfort persists.
Your dentist will be able to give you an estimate after thorough examination. The cost will depend on the difficulty and the time spent treating the tooth.