Introduction Tooth loss can have an adverse effect on a person’s quality of life. It may result in an inability to chew food properly and a lack of confidence in one’s appearance. Many teeth can be saved and returned to a normal function with a procedure called Endodontic treatment or root canal therapy.
What is endodontic treatment and why is it needed? Inside the tooth there is a soft tissue, called the dental pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues. This pulp is connected to the tissues surrounding the root. Endodontics (“endo" means inside in ancient greek and “odont" means tooth) treats pathology related to the pulp tissue inside the tooth. This pathology could appear as an abscess, an acute radiating pain, pain on chewing or percussion, a dull ache near the root, increased sensitivity to cold and hot food and beverages, swelling, or they may only be apparent on an x-ray of the root. There are various causes of these symptoms and these may include deep decay, faulty filling or crowns, cracks in the tooth or dental trauma. Endodontic treatment consists of cleaning, both mechanically and chemically and then filling, the inside of the tooth with biocompatible material to seal the root.
Who can perform endodontic treatments? Every dentist can perform endodontic procedures, but often they refer patients needing endodontic treatment to a specialist Endodontist, who is particularly skilled at performing root canal treatment, re-treatment and endodontic microsurgery. Specialists usually use an operative microscope to carry out a range of procedures from simple cases to very complex procedures efficiently, painlessly and usually in a single visit.
When and why is necessary a secondary treatment (re-treatment or endodontic microsurgery)? Sometimes re-treatment of a previously endodontically treated tooth is necessary. This happens when bacteria are present inside the tooth and in communication with the surrounding root tissues. These bacteria could have survived during the first treatment or penetrated afterwards through new decay or a loose, cracked or broken crown or filling.
What will happen after the root canal treatment? After the endodontic treatment a temporary filling will be placed into the access cavity. The treated tooth could be moderately sensitive for a few days when chewing, but this usually resolves quite quickly. Endodontic treatment is only the first step in returning your tooth to function. The tooth needs to be treated by your own dentist as soon as possible in order to restore its function and protect it from the bacterial re-contamination. The Endodontist will communicate with your dentist about your case and the required final restoration. In cases where there was infection, follow up x- rays will be needed until complete healing is achieved. Teeth that have undergone endodontic treatment and that have been properly restored should last as long as natural teeth.