Endodontics deals with infection in the tooth's 'root canal system’, which supplies nutrients and sensation to the nerves and dentine. We will always try and save the tooth where possible. It is better to retain natural teeth rather than extract, all other things being equal. The infection, unless spotted while developing, will usually lead to a painful abscess. Without treatment the infection will spread and the tooth might need to be extracted.
We use an endodontist, a dentist who only performs root canal treatments and so is an expert. They treatment involves locating and opening up the root canals, cleaning out the infected soft tissue (‘the nerve’ and blood supply), filling up the root canals with inert material to prevent bacteria or food lodging there and finally sealing the top off. The endodontist will then tell the regular dentist whether the tooth needs to be sealed with a permanent filling or with a crown.
The entire root canal treatment usually takes between 75-120 minutes depending on the complexity of the root canals. Recovery usually takes minimum of 2 - 7 days.
The final restoration is done after the root canal treatment has settled down.
This is one area of dentistry where the outcome cannot be guaranteed. Success rates are typically dependent on the tooth, the morphology of that tooth, the skill of the practitioner and, of course, the health of the patient. Typical figures given are between 65-90% for the immediate treatment. We achieve towards the higher end of this band as our endodontist has many years of experience.
Once an infection is resistant to medication and the patient is unable to maintain oral hygiene, there is no other way to try and save the tooth, assuming that is the patient’s desired option. Alternative options include extracting the tooth and replacing it with a denture, a bridge or an implant. All options have advantages and disadvantages.
We will fully explain what is involved upon diagnosis of a need for root canal treatment, and our patients will have a chance to ask questions and be clear about their options, the costs and advantages and disadvantages. In our view, it is always preferable to save natural teeth as far as is possible, funds and health allowing.
If you have been diagnosed as needing a root canal treatment but would like a second opinion, we are happy to assess your x-rays and gums (in person, not by email or telephone!) or to carry out an independent new examination. Call us to make an appointment.
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