What you see in the mouth is merely the top part of the tooth. Underneath the gums, embedded in the jaws are the roots of these teeth. Within the roots is a space called the root canal and within this the dental pulp is found. This is made of various fine nerves and blood vessels. Root Canal Treatment involves the widening and cleaning of this space to remove any inflamed or necrotic dental pulp tissue. The space is then sealed with a root filling.
Sometimes the root canals are very fine, calcified or blocked. These can be difficult to access and an Endodontist has specialist equipment including an Operating Microscope.
This treatment can be done over 1-2 appointments. The Endodontist will discuss this and the cost with you during your consultation appointment.
If the root canals are not able to be cleaned completely they can become infected causing an abscess at the end of the root. The tooth is carefully examined prior to treatment to assess this risk.
The added risk is the strength of the tooth following root canal treatment. The structure of the dentine changes with the collagen component becoming weaker. The sides of a posterior tooth are at risk of fracturing following root canal treatment and added protection is needed. Often a crown is required which is done by your General Dentist, however a 6-12 month observation period is suggested before this is done to check that the treatment has been successful.
A tooth that has had root canal treatment is not as strong as a vital tooth. The structure of the dentine becomes weaker due to the breakdown of collagen with the dentine and this weakening effect becomes more pronounced with time. The average life of a root filled tooth is around 12 years. This can be improved by ensuring all of the root canals have been cleaned and filled, as well as protecting the crown (chewing surface) of the tooth.
Sometimes a vertical crack may develop in the root of a root filled tooth which is related to the weakening of the dentine. There is no treatment other than extraction for these vertical root fractures.