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Patient Information


How Do I Know If I Need Root Canal Treatment? 

You may have a throbbing pain and/or lingering sensitivity to hot/ cold, discomfort when chewing or even a swelling around the tooth. You may experience unbelievably severe pain.

However, in some cases a tooth may not have any obvious symptoms, i.e, you may not be aware of any issues. In these cases, it is typically your dentist who detects that you have a (potential) root canal infection.

What causes teeth to require root canal treatment?

Usually dental decay, hairline cracks, leaking fillings or dental trauma may result in a tooth needing a root canal treatment.

Patient often ask why they need a root canal treatment when they are so diligent with there tooth brushing and flossing, as well as seeing the hygienist on a very frequent basis. The reason is that we use our teeth everyday of the week, so in a lot of cases it is simply down to everyday wear and tear which has probably been exacerbated by intermittent tooth grinding - so teeth require maintenance!

If you are in you are in your mid-40s, and your molar tooth needs a root canal treatment - it means that after nearly 40 years of regular use your tooth requires some TLC to keep in going.

Sometimes existing root canal treatments have a persistent and/or new infection resulting in pain and/or an abscess. In these cases a revision of the existing treatment, i.e. re-root canal treatment may be indicated.

You will be assessed, and usually a low dose, high resolution Cone Beam CT (3D) scan taken. Following this a diagnosis and potential treatment options will be discussed.

Sometimes the treatment can be completed in a single visit but often two appointments are required to ensure we clean the canal system thoroughly. 

Treatment is carried out with local anaesthetic, and the tooth is then isolated with a non-latex sheet(rubber dam) to prevent contamination of the tooth with saliva (which contains bacteria), and also to make you more comfortable.

Why do I need a 3D (Cone Beam CT) scan?

​Regular digital dental X rays provide a 2 dimensional image of the tooth and the surrounding bone. Therefore the complex anatomy of the tooth, supporting tissues and jaw bone cannot be truly appreciated-this can have an impact on the management of dental problems.

Cone Beam CT (CBCT) scans provide 3 dimensional images of teeth and the surrounding bone. The radiation dose from the CBCT scanner we use is in the same order of magnitude as a couple of routine dental X rays (about 3 or 4 days background radiation). To put this in perspective, it's important to understand that we are ALL exposed to 'background radiation' from naturally occurring radioactive particles in soil, water and air (cosmic).

There is compelling evidence confirming that 3D CBCT scans improves the accuracy of diagnosis of root canal problems. In addition, there is high-level scientific evidence to show that CBCT scans help in the actual management of root canal treatment. Taking a CBCT scan allows us to carry out root canal treatment efficiently and predictably.

What are the alternatives to root canal treatment?

You could have the tooth extracted and have it replaced with an implant retained crown, a fixed bridge or a removable denture. You really need to discuss these options with your dentist before you have the tooth extracted.

We will only consider root treating your tooth if we really do think that it has a good prognosis.

There is a common misconception that root canal treatment in some way is an inferior or less predictable treatment option compare to dental implants. This simply is not true. The longevity of both treatment options is similar when carried out by experience dentists. So why extract a perfectly good tooth and place an artificial titanium screw in your jaw? Teeth are the best, most biocompatible and elegant dental if at all possible one should retain them for as long as possible.

If the tooth cannot be saved then dental implants are usually the best treatment option....but it's important to remember that they are not immune to failure.

Will the treatment hurt?

Advances in treatment methods mean an endodontic procedure is as comfortable as having a filling placed. Before treatment begins you’ll be given a local anaesthetic to ensure you’re comfortable at all stages of any procedure.

However, as with most dental procedures it is not uncommon to have a degree of tenderness and possibly swelling for 1-2 weeks after treatment has been completed. This pain is usually resolved with over the counter pain medication.

Why can’t I just take a course of antibiotics?

Antibiotics do not eliminate the source of inflammation and/or infection within the tooth. The only way to predictably eliminate infection is to carry out root canal treatment or extracting the tooth. Repeated doses may ultimately result in a resistance to antibiotics.

Your tooth’s life after root canal treatment

Once we have root treated the tooth it will be permanently sealed with a resin tooth coloured filling - in some cases, no further treatment is required.

Back (premolar/molar) teeth may require onlays or crowns-these are like lids that cover the biting of the tooth to reduce the likelihood of the tooth fracturing when it is being used, remember the back teeth do most of the chewing work. You will be advised if this needs to be done after assessing your tooth. This aspect of treatment is relatively straightforward and can be carried out by the dentist who referred you to us.

The tooth in question should be checked after 12 months, perhaps at the same time as a routine check-up with your regular dentist. In some (complex) cases, we may ask you to come back for a review before this time. 

What are the fees?

Endodontic treatment is generally less expensive than extracting a natural tooth and replacing it with an artificial tooth. An estimate of the fees will be discussed with you at your initial consultation.

The cost depends on the number of visits and duration of each visit, the materials used, whether surgery is needed and any atypical circumstances that may arise.

Payment for treatment is requested on the day and a HICAPS health fund terminal can process your claim immediately.

Please note: the cost of a permanent restoration, such as a crown, is separate to your endodontic treatment and should be discussed with your dentist.

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