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saving teeth

Root therapy

What is root therapy?

To understand root therapy, you must first understand the basic structure of a tooth.

The tooth has 4 layers –

  • Enamel – the hard outer layer of tooth
  • Dentine – the softer inner layer of tooth
  • Cementum – the hard material that coats the root’s surface
  • Pulp Chamber – this tissue contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, needed for early development stages

A fully formed adult tooth can survive without the pulp as it continues to be nourished by the soft tissues surrounding it.

Root therapy (aka root canal treatment) is a process in which the pulp of the tooth is removed due to damage and infection, and replaced with gutta-percha (a plant based thermoplastic). Damage to a pulp can be caused by dental caries progressing through the layers of the tooth and penetrating the pulp chamber, trauma (fracture/breakage), preparing a tooth too close to the pulp chamber and causing exposure or advanced periodontal disease . Infection to a pulp is caused by bacteria entering the pulp chamber. Once a bacterial infection has spread inside the pulp chamber, it multiplies, eventually causing symptoms such as:
  • Pain when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drink
  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • A loose tooth
These are the first signs that something is not right, and you should get your tooth checked as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms. If left, the infection will eventually cause the pulp to die, and these symptoms disappear, giving the impression that the tooth has healed. This is far from the case, and the infection has spread through the canal system, ultimately leading to further symptoms such as:
  • A returning pain when biting or chewing
  • Swelling of the gum near the affected tooth
  • Pus oozing from the affected tooth
  • A swollen cheek or jaw
  • The tooth becoming a darker colour
For many people, these latter stage symptoms are the first signs of anything being wrong with their tooth, and seek immediate treatment for infection with antibiotics. Although antibiotics help with the infection on a short term basis, they will never truly remove the cause of the infection. The only way to do this is by removal of the dead pulp – root therapy.

Root therapy aftercare

Once a tooth has been root filled, it is important to look after it.