If the surface of your tooth becomes compromised, perhaps through severe decay or traumatic injury, bacteria can penetrate to the soft tissues at the centre of the tooth, known as the dental pulp.
An infection of the dental pulp can be very uncomfortable and threatens not only the affected tooth but also the surrounding teeth, gums, and underlying bone tissue.
A dental pulp infection can be eliminated with a root canal treatment, which may take place over one or more appointments.
Under a local anaesthetic, your dentist will begin by removing the infected tissue from the root canal. After cleaning and disinfecting the tooth, they will seal the canal with an antibacterial filling material.
Once the canal is sealed, your dentist will rebuild your tooth with a filling, onlay, or crown, depending on the severity of the damage. In some cases, they may need to insert a small post into the root canal before it is sealed to support the restoration.
After your root canal treatment is complete, not only will your infection be gone, but your tooth’s aesthetic look and chewing functionality are restored. Any discomfort caused by your infection will dissipate quickly.
In rare cases, a root canal treatment might fail because infected tissue is left behind in tiny sub-branches of the root canal. If that happens, your dentist will perform a second root canal treatment to try and remove all traces of the infection.
If you require a more complex procedure such as an apicectomy, where the tip of the tooth root is removed, you may be referred to an endodontist.
Left untreated, a dental pulp infection can cause the tooth’s nerve to die, leaving an extraction as the only viable option to prevent the infection from spreading. It is critical you seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent long-lasting damage.