Teeth are held in the jaw by their roots. Front teeth normally have one root but teeth further back will have two, three or four.
Inside, there are nerves and a blood supply in the ‘root canal’. When the tooth is healthy, the nerves are alive but decay or injury can cause the nerves to die. A dead nerve inside a tooth can cause an abscess at the end of the root.
Root filling means removing damaged or dead nerves and filling the space left. The tooth that is left can then be repaired.
How we do a root filling?
- An x-ray will show the shape of the root canals and whether there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone. Some tooth roots are easier to fill than others because of their shape. Sometimes the x-ray will show that a root filling will not be successful. This will be discussed with you.
- The area near the tooth will be numbed so the area is painless.
- To keep root canals dry during treatment your dentist may stretch a sheet of thin sheer rubber around the tooth, on a metal or plastic frame outside the mouth. This shouldn’t be uncomfortable.
- A hole will be made in the tooth and enlarged so that the opening to the root canal can be seen.
- Narrow files will be used to find all the root canals and remove the dead nerves.
- X-rays may be taken to measure the length of the root canals.
- The roots will be filled with a rubbery material and pastes that set hard.
A root filling often needs more than one visit.
The tooth could still be tender for a day or two afterwards and you might need to take a mild painkiller.
The benefits of this treatment:
- Nerve damage can cause severe toothache but the pain will usually end very quickly when the root canal is cleaned out.
- Without a root filling, a tooth with a dead nerve would probably have to be taken out.
- Root fillings are usually successful and can last many years.
- Sometimes there can be an infection (the tooth will ache and become painful to bite on) but re-treatment can be successful.