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Root canal treatments (Endodontics)

Priory Dental Wells

Why might I need a root canal treatment?

If the nerve within the tooth becomes irreversibly infected or inflamed, due to decay or injury, then root canal treatment can sometimes be the only way to save the tooth and avoid the need for the tooth to be extracted.
Within the hard outer shell of the tooth (the enamel) there is a second hard layer (the dentine). Both of these layers help to protect the soft tissue inside (the pulp). The pulp contains blood vessels and nerves that supply nutrients and sensation to the tooth.

If the enamel and dentine are damaged through decay or injury then damage to the delicate pulp can occur. This damage can go on to cause symptoms such as severe pain that may not be eased with pain killers, tenderness to bite on the tooth, pain with hot and cold and ultimately this can lead to swelling and abscess (gum boil) formation. At this stage, the only way to save the tooth is through root canal treatment.


What is a root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is where the soft tissue within the pulp is removed, this removed the source of the infection/pain, the chamber is thoroughly disinfected and a rubber filling is used to seal the root canal system.

  • Once the tooth requiring treatment has been identified local anaesthetic is placed to numb the tooth.
  • A rubber sheet (known as a rubber dam) is then placed over the tooth to keep the tooth dry from saliva.
  • The decay is removed from the tooth and the root canal system is accessed
  • Small instruments (files) are used to remove the infected pulp tissue and a disinfectant is used to thoroughly clean the canal system.
  • These cleaned and shaped canals are then filled with a rubber called gutter percha and an antibacterial sealer.
  • A filling is then placed over the filled canals

What are the risks associated with root canal treatment?

As with all types of treatment, root canal treatment comes with its own risks. Your dentist will go through these in detail with you as they vary case by case. However the ultimate risk with any proposed root canal treatment that you must be aware of is that it may fail to save the tooth. This may be due to a number of reasons including an undiagnosed fracture of the tooth or a technical difficulty undertaking the root canal treatment. Luckily these problems are the exception rather than the rule and root canal treatment is therefore very often the option of choice to save a tooth which would otherwise need to be extracted.


What happens after a root canal treatment?

After a root canal treatment, the tooth may be tender for approximately 3-5 days. In order to manage the discomfort, we would recommend taking painkillers: ibuprofen or paracetamol as directed on the packet.

Although root canal treatment helps to save the tooth, this treatment does leave the tooth more brittle and more likely to fracture. As a result, it is important that, after a period of healing of approximately 3-6 months, a crown (or similar) is made for the tooth. This helps to restore strength and function back to the tooth and help prevent fracture. If the tooth is left unprotected the tooth may fracture and become unrestorable and extraction may be the only option for treatment.


Why see the team at Priory Dental for root canal treatment.

The dentists at Priory Dental regularly undertake this type of treatment. We use the latest reciprocating file systems for most cases (a system called Reciproc which is among one of the most advanced file systems available). We know from our cases that we have a good rate of success for this type of treatment. Dr Ewan Davidson and Dr Ryan Hughes take on some of the more complex cases at the practice and we also benefit from a specialist in Endodontics (Dr David Langham) who is able to advise on the most complex cases and undertake treatments on referral either at Priory Dental or in Taunton where this is necessary. The service from Dr Langham is for a minority of cases and is quoted for on a case-by-case basis having already been assessed by one of our other dentists. See the Team page for more information.