Endodontics refers to that discipline in dentistry that deals with maintaining the health of the living tissues inside a tooth (pulp) and preventing infection of the surrounding tissues. Where infection is already present, the aim is to resolve it and restore the tooth to a good appearance and function.
One of the most common endodontic therapies performed is Root Canal Treatment (RCT).
Why is root canal treatment needed?
The root canal system in a healthy tooth contains living tissue (the pulp) including nerves and blood vessels. This tissue may be damaged by decay or traumatic injury to the tooth resulting in infection with bacteria and the formation of an abscess.
Symptoms range from mild discomfort, particularly on biting, to significant pain and swelling. Occasionally, the infection presents as a shadow over the roots on an x-ray with no associated pain.
Root canal treatment is needed to remove the damaged tissue, disinfect the root canal system and restore the tooth to function. Certain teeth may have complex anatomy or may be part of a bridge and require careful treatment. However, current modern day endodontic practices, such as the use of a microscope which allows for greater visual access, enables for the completion of such cases to a high standard as shown below.
Occasionally RCT is undertaken on a previously root filled tooth in which the treatment is inadequate or has failed. The outcome for such cases can be very favourable and result complete resolution and healing of large infections as shown below. Where appropriate, a surgical procedure (apicectomy, root resection) can be undertaken in order to save the tooth.
Root canal treatment if followed by placement of a crown is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime, although on occasion, a tooth will have to be retreated due to recurrent infections.