Root Canal Treatment

Undetected and untreated dental decay will usually burrow deeper in the dentine of the tooth. Eventually, the bacteria and toxins of the dental decay starts to affect the pulp (which contains the nerves) of the tooth. The pulp becomes painfully inflamed and the pulp of the tooth will eventually die. A subsequent pulpal infection progresses and tracks down the root of the tooth until a periapical infection (root abscess) forms. This usually results in acute pain and throbbing of the affected tooth. Many people who do not visit the dentist regularly will quickly present for treatment once the dental decay disease process progresses to this painful stage.

When this happens, patients are usually confronted with two options to treat the disease process and ease the pain:

  • Root Canal Treatment (RCT).
  • Extraction the tooth.

Root Canal Treatment sounds intimidating and may conjure up negative attitudes in some patients. However, the success rate of root canal treatment is good, being in the order of at least 90%. Yet, this means that about one in ten cases may fail over the years for such reasons as:

  • Splitting of the tooth.
  • Re-infection.

It must be borne in mind that many of the pre-baby boomer generation (in many cases our parents, grand-parents or great grandparents) lost many, if not all of their adult teeth at an early age due to the following chain of events:

  • The lack of fluoridated water supplies and poor access to dental services →
    • Rampant dental decay →
      • Root canal therapy not yet invented →
        • Tooth extraction and loss.

Today, Root Canal Therapy is as reliable and unremarkable as receiving a filling. It is the mainstay of treating teeth that have irreversible inflammation of the nerve (pulpitis) or have become abscessed. Multiple visits are required to disinfect the root canal system and prepare the tooth for a Root Canal Filling (Obturation). Upon completion of Root Canal Therapy, in about 70% of cases, a Crown or Onlay restoration is required to protect the tooth roots from splitting apart (cuspal protection).