Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic therapy, is used to save or repair a tooth that has decayed or become severely infected.
Firstly, the tooth is numbed using local anaesthetic to minimise any discomfort. A vinyl sheet known as a dental dam is placed over the tooth being treated and those that are surrounding this area of treatment. A hole is punched into the vinyl sheet allowing the tooth being treated to be isolated from the rest of the mouth. This is in order to help prevent exposure to bacteria that may be present in the surrounding saliva.
A small access hole is drilled into the crown of tooth allowing access to the pulp chamber and root canals for treatment. The infected pulp is then removed from the root canal and pulp chambers using broaches and other specialised instruments. After the pulp tissue is removed, the canals are disinfected with an antibacterial solution. The root canal is then contoured using flexible instruments such as endontontic files and are washed again to remove any debris. The shaping of the canals allow for the insertion a root canal filling made up of a rubber-like material called gutta-percha.
The gutta-percha, a thermoplastic material, is then heated to compress it into and against the walls of the root canal ensuring its sealed. It is important that the canal space is fully sealed with the aid of sealent to reduce any risk of infection in the future. The drilled hole used to access the canal is then filled with a temporary filling material. The dentist may prescribe an antibiotic and discuss how to manage any resultant soreness that may occur over the next few days. At another visit when the infection has completely cleared, the tooth is checked and permanently filled.