Root Canal Treatment
When decay has been allowed to penetrate through the hard tooth material into the central cavity of a tooth, the nerves, blood vessels etc. in that cavity (the pulp chamber) die. The same can happen after the tooth has suffered severe trauma, often even years later. This is dental ‘gangrene’.
Why is root canal treatment necessary?
Due to that dental ‘gangrene’, the nerves and blood vessels die in the channels (canals) that travel down the centre of each of the tooth roots that are embedded in the jaw bones.
Left untreated the toxic bye-products and infection from this dead dental tissue spreads into the bone causing the classic dental abscess, with resultant pain and swelling. There are only two treatments available for such a condition: removal of the ‘nerves’ with the tooth (extraction) or removal of the ‘nerves’ from the tooth (root canal treatment). The former is somewhat ‘barbaric’ unless the tooth can be saved, which it most commonly can by carrying out a root canal treatment procedure. People sometimes think that it is ‘not worth’ saving a back tooth because it is not as easily seen as a front one. This is a bad error of judgement. Back teeth are essential for chewing, supporting the jaw bones and protecting the front teeth from excess pressures.
What does root canal treatment entail?
The treatment involves the administration of local anaesthetic and the physical removal of all the inflamed or infected soft tissue elements from the pulp chamber and each root canal all the way down to the end of each root tip. The pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned and treated with disinfecting solutions and then dried. Each canal is then sealed with a rubber type material that acts as a hermetic plug ensuring that there can be no further leakage of bacteria down any canals into the jaw bone, and the pulp chamber is filled with a composite ‘core filling’. The tooth is ‘dead’ but it is clean and, as such, most commonly can be retained quite possibly for life. This procedure rarely requires antibiotics and almost always can be carried out painlessly by an experienced and competent practitioner.
Root canal treated teeth are often weak and brittle (more so as the moisture is removed from the tooth by the procedure). Consequently usually, but not always, it is recommended that these teeth be strengthened and protected with permanent crowns.
How much does root canal treatment cost?
The costs associated with the root canal procedure on a tooth relate to the expertise of the practitioner and amount of time required over either the one , two or three appointments that may be required. Obviously a big molar right at the back of the mouth with three or four, often curved root canals is going to be a lot more difficult and time consuming than an easily accessible front tooth with just one canal. The fee will reflect these differences. Often, although not necessarily always, it is appropriate to refer complex root canal treatment to a specialist (endodontist).