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Section Questions and Answers

Root Canal Treatment OR Endodontics

  1. What does endodontics mean?
  2. What is an endodontist?
  3. What is a root canal?
  4. What is a pulp chamber?
  5. What is a root canal treatment?
  6. How does a root canal become infected?
  7. How can I know if I have a root canal problem?
  8. How are root canal problems treated?
  9. What is an apicectomy?
  10. Is root canal treatment painful?
  11. Are antibiotics necessary to treat root canal problems?
  12. How successful is root canal treatment?

 
1. What does endodontics mean?

  • Endodontics refers to within the tooth.
    Endo means within, dontic refers to the tooth.

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2. What is an endodontist?

  • An endodontist is a dentist who is a specialist in the treatment of endodontic or root canal problems.

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3. What is a root canal?

  • A root canal is a narrow passage in a root through which the nerves and blood vessels enter the tooth.
  • They travel from the end of the root through the root canal on their way to the pulp chamber at the centre of the tooth.

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4. What is a pulp chamber?

  • The pulp chamber is the space in the crown of a tooth, which houses the nerves and blood vessels (the pulp). They have entered the tooth through the root canals.
    The pulp chamber is like a nerve and blood vessel terminus, where their inward journey ends and the return journey back to the end of the root begins.
  • The nerves send pain signals to the brain in response to the presence of decay or injury.
  • The blood vessels supply the nutritional needs of the tooth.

Click to enlarge
Inside the tooth

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5. What is a root canal treatment?

  • This is a treatment to remove infected nerves and blood vessels from the pulp chamber and root canals.
  • It is professionally called an endodontic treatment.

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6. How does a root canal become infected?

  • A root canal becomes infected when decay spreads into it, or when the root of the tooth is fractured or injured as a result of an accident.

Click to enlarge
How decay spreads
Abscess on root
Click to enlarge
Illustration of
x-ray showing decay

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7. How can I know if I have a root canal problem?

  • Teeth that have root canal problems are generally painful.
  • Decomposing nerves and blood vessels create gases that expand and are locked into the pulp chamber and root canals. They cause pressure which results in pain.
  • The pain can be in response to temperature changes, especially hot drinks, or can be spontaneous, very severe, and even throbbing in nature.
  • The tooth may be tender on chewing.

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8. How are root canal problems treated?

  • The first step is to open the pulp chamber to allow access to the root canals.
  • Pus accumulates in the pulp chamber and in the root canals when an infection is severe.
  • It may be necessary to leave the tooth open so that the pus can drain out.
  • When the symptoms are relieved, the root canal treatment can be continued.
  • The root canal and pulp chamber are reshaped and cleaned out.
  • The now empty canal and pulp chamber are filled and sealed with special materials.

Click to enlarge
Before treatment
Click to enlarge
After root filled

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9. What is an apicectomy?

  • Apicectomy means the "removal of the apex of the root."
  • During periapical surgery, a small piece of the root tip is removed. The end of the root canal is then sealed with a special material.
  • An apicectomy may be necessary after a root canal treatment has not been successful. After an unsuccessful root canal treatment, when some infection has remained at the end of a root and in the surrounding area. This can happen.
  • Access to the area is through the gum and bone at the side of the root.
  • The purpose of the apicectomy is to make sure that there is no remaining infection in the area.

Click to enlarge
Before: showing dark
infected area on root
Click to enlarge
After: showing sealed
root canal.
White spot is the seal.

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10. Is root canal treatment painful?

  • The treatment is generally not painful as a local anaesthetic is used.
  • If the patient is in pain after the anaesthetic wears off, pain relievers can be used.

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11. Are antibiotics necessary to treat root canal infections?

  • Sometimes the infection is so severe that it can spread through the end of the roots and into the bone that surrounds the tooth.
  • This is the way an abscess forms at the end of a root.
  • The endodontist or dentist may decide to use antibiotics to clear the infection.
  • The root canal treatment can then be completed.

See Abscess

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12. How successful is root canal treatment?

  • Root canal treatment is very successful. It can save a severely infected tooth from being extracted.
  • The length of time taken to complete the treatment will be determined by the number, shape and other characteristics of the roots.
    A badly infected root canal may need several return visits to the dentist before the root is ready to be filled.
  • Your general dentist may decide to refer you to an endodontist, depending on the complexity of the problem.

Click to enlarge
Large abscess over root
Click to enlarge
Good result
after treatment

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