Endodontics (root canal treatment)

Endodontics (from the Greek endo “inside” and odons “tooth”) is the dental specialty involving treatments for the interior of the tooth, specifically the pulp and the tissues in the root of the tooth. A root canal is a procedure that removes infected pulp from the central part of the tooth, reshapes the canal and replaces it with filler.

A cavity is the result of superficial decay of the enamel of the tooth. Left long enough, this decay can burrow into the deeper reaches of the tooth, causing extensive damage to the tooth structure. When the damage goes beyond what can be treated with a filling, dentists can perform a root canal, preserving the tooth and retaining its original integrity, thereby saving a tooth that in the past would have been pulled.

A common misconception is that a root canal is an uncomfortable procedure. Actually, root canals are similar to having a cavity filled, producing minimal discomfort.

The need for endodontic treatment can result from:

  • Inflamed/infected tooth pulp
  • Severe sensitivity to hot and cold elements
  • Tooth decay
  • Chipped or broken tooth
  • Blow to the tooth
  • Swelling or tenderness near the infected tooth
  • Repeated dental procedures on a tooth

Steps during an endodontic procedure:

  • The patient undergoes anaesthesia
  • A dental dam is used to isolate the tooth
  • The tooth is opened to allow for removal of infected or dead dental pulp
  • The tooth is comprehensively cleaned, as are any cracks and canals
  • The doctor reshapes the canals
  • The tooth is filled with biocompatible filling material
  • A temporary covering is placed over the access opening
  • A crown is usually recommended to strengthen the treated tooth

Because of modern anaesthetics, root canal treatment is rarely painful, and most teeth can be saved by endodontic treatment.