Director-Principal, Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences, New Delhi
What is root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment is a dental procedure in which the infected or damaged pulp of a tooth is removed and the inside areas are filled and sealed. The pulp of the tooth is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. It lies within the tooth and extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the root in the jawbone.
Why is the procedure required?
Root canal treatment saves teeth that would otherwise need to be extracted. The most common cause of pulp infection is a cracked tooth or a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let bacteria enter the pulp and causes an infection inside the tooth. If not treated, pus builds up at the root tip in the jawbone forming a “pus-pocket” called an abscess, which can cause damage to the bone around the teeth.
What preparation is required?
There is no preparation required for root canal treatment. Once the tooth is opened to drain, the dentist may prescribe an antibiotic. With the infection under control, local anaesthetic is more effective, so that the root canal treatment may be performed without discomfort.
How is the procedure performed?
During the treatment, the infected pulp is removed , the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned and sealed. The steps involved are:
An opening is made in the crown of the tooth.
The pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned.
Medications may be put in the pulp chamber and root canal to help get rid of bacteria and treat the infection.
A temporary filling is placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits.
In the final step, the temporary filling is removed and a permanent filling of gold or porcelain crown is usually placed over the tooth.
Root canal treatment can sometimes be completed in one visit but often several visits are needed. Back teeth usually require more time for treatment because they have more canals, which are narrower and harder to reach.
During the treatment, x-rays need to be taken at each stage to assess the length and position of each of the root canal.
What are the alternatives to root canal treatment?
Extraction or removal is the only alternative. The extracted tooth will have to be replaced by a denture, bridge or implant. Otherwise, the neighbouring teeth will move into the space, creating problems with eating and cleaning. These problems can cause gum disease and new cavities.