Root Canal Therapy

Sometimes your natural tooth may need root canal therapy (“RCT’ or endodontic treatment) for it to remain a healthy part of your mouth. With the development of specially designed instruments and the effectiveness of anaesthetic, most patients report having RCT with minimal to no discomfort.

RCT is required when the pulp tissue becomes inflamed or infected. This pulp tissue is at the centre of the tooth (called the root canal system) and is protected by hard tooth structures called dentine and enamel. This pulp tissue contains nerve fibres vital for the sensation of temperature, and blood vessels to keep the tooth alive.

Infections or inflammation of the pulpal tissues occur due to deep decay, recurring dental procedures on the tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, injuries or trauma to a tooth can cause pulp tissue damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it will cause severe pain and eventually lead to an abscess. The tooth will need either RCT or extraction to stop the pain and infection from spreading.

RCT usually requires one to three appointments and involves:

  • Placing a latex sheet called a rubber dam around the tooth to be treated. This will protect the surrounding tissues and reduce contamination to the treating tooth’s root canal system during the procedure. For your additional comfort, a local anaesthetic may be given to numb your tooth and surrounding area.
  • Creating a small access opening on the top of the tooth and using specially designed files and instruments with cleaning agents to gently remove the infected pulp tissue and disinfect the tooth’s root canal system.

After the root canal system has been successfully cleaned, sterilised and reshaped, healing of the bone surrounding the tooth may become visible on an x-ray. The tooth will also become more comfortable to chew on, as the body begins to accept this "mummified" tooth as a non-infected tissue. The roots canal system is then filled with a biocompatible material to seal off re-infection.

Following treatment, a porcelain crown is placed over the tooth in order to restore strength, function and appearance.

An infection of the pulp, an accident or a fracture can cause discoloration of a tooth. During your root canal treatment, an internal whitening agent can be applied to restore your tooth back to its natural colour. Internal whitening of a tooth is usually done when most of the natural structure remains. If much of the natural tooth has been removed, a porcelain crown is placed over the tooth and therefore whitening is not required.