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Root Canal Treatment

If the nerve within your tooth becomes infected, successful root canal treatment can keep you from losing the tooth while treating the infection before it causes health complications. Properly performed, a root canal is no more uncomfortable than having a cavity filled, though the procedure is more complex. It is the removal of infected or dead pulp (the inner nerves and blood vessels) from inside the tooth, and the filling and sealing of the resulting space.

An infected (abscessed) tooth causes discomfort in the form of swelling and toothache. It can also cause severe health complications, because the bacteria from the infection can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body.

One way to treat the infection is to remove the tooth and disinfect the area. However, tooth loss creates a gap between surrounding teeth that often necessitates a dental implant or bridge. It is preferable to save the tooth if possible through root canal (endodontic) treatment.

The dentist begins by applying local anesthesia and isolating the area with a rubber dam. Then they drill an opening in the tooth to access the infected pulp, and remove it and clean the area with specialized tools. The dentist fills the root space with a filling material. Finally the dentist must seal the surface of the tooth with a crown to prevent further infection and restore the function and appearance of the tooth.

The root canal treatment is typically performed in one visit. A second visit may be required to complete the crown restoration.

Endodontic Retreatment

In rare cases, root canal therapy fails to work as expected. The treated tooth might not heal properly or a patient might experience post-surgical complications that jeopardize the tooth. Root canal retreatment involves the removal of the previous crown and packing material, the cleansing of the root canals, and the re-packing and re-crowning of the tooth. In short, root canal retreatment is almost identical to the original procedure, aside from the structural removal. The success rate for a root canal retreatment runs at around 75%.

Root canal treatments and retreatments are a better alternative than extraction for most individuals. If a tooth has good bone support, a solid surface and healthy gums beneath it, it stands a good chance of being saved. Opting for root canal retreatment can be far less expensive than the alternatives. Dental implants, extensive bridgework and the creation of aesthetically pleasing prosthetic teeth cost far more than working with the natural tooth. They also require maintenance and feel less natural than a “real” tooth.

Why is root canal retreatment required?

Though the prospect of more endodontic surgery might not be pleasant, root canal retreatment is fairly simple. In general, the whole treatment can be completed in 1-3 visits.

There are a number of reasons why root canal therapy unexpectedly fails, including:

  • Cracked crown leaking filling material.
  • Curved or narrow canals not treated during the original procedure.
  • Delay in the placement of restorative devices following the procedure.
  • New decay to the tooth.
  • New fracture in the treated tooth.
  • Saliva entering the restorative structure.
  • Undetected complex canal structures.

What does root canal retreatment involve?

On the day of the retreatment procedure a local anesthetic will be administered, unless another type of anesthetic has been selected. The affected tooth is isolated with a rubber dam. The dam protects the tooth during treatment from bacteria and saliva. The amount the dentist can do within a single appointment will much depend on the amount of inflammation present, and the complexity of the treatment.

The first step in a root canal retreatment is to gain access to the inner tooth. If a crown and post have been placed, these will be removed.

Next, filling material and obstructions that block the root canals will be removed. This removal is conducted using an ultrasonic handpiece. The advantage of using this tool is that any unwanted material is vibrated loose. Tiny instruments will then be used to clean and reshape the root canals. X-rays may be taken to ensure that the roots are thoroughly clean. If this part of the treatment proves to be complex, medicated packing material will be applied, and the rest of the cleansing procedure will be done at the next visit.

When the dentist is confident that the root canals are completely clean, gutta-percha is used to pack the space. This rubbery material seals the canals to prevent bacterial invasion. Finally, a temporary crown or filling is applied to tooth. At a later date, the color-matched permanent crown will be placed.

If you have any questions or concerns about root canal retreatment, please ask your dentist.

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