Root fillings

What are they?

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 a root which may lead to discharge of pus.

The aim of a root filling is to remove dead or damaged nerves along with any bacteria within the canals.

The space that is left can then be filled and the tooth restored.

It should be noted that a tooth that has reached this stage is not a whole, completed or healthy tooth.

What will we do?

  • An x-ray will show the shape of the root canals and if 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. Your dentist will then discuss this with you.
  • You will receive an injection to numb the area.
  • A hole will be made in the tooth and enlarged until the opening to the root canal can be seen.
  • Narrow files will be used to find all the root canals and remove the dead or dying nerves.
  • Further x-rays will be taken to measure the length of the root canals.
  • The roots will be dressed temporarily and you will return to have rubbery
    materials and pastes filled into the roots permanently.

The tooth may well be tender for up to 48 hours and you might need to take
painkillers. It is advisable to leave yourself free for the rest of the day and
evening as some people feel under the weather after a root canal treatment.

What are the benefits?

  • Nerve damage can cause severe toothache but the pain will end quickly
    when the root canal is cleaned out.
  • Without a root filling, a tooth with a dead nerve would probably have to be extracted.
  • In approximately 66% of cases root fillings are successful and will extend
    the life of a damaged tooth.

What are the disadvantages?

  • During the course of the treatment and between visits, the tooth being root treated may break or fracture due to its weakness. Most fractures are repairable. However, if the breakage is severe, the tooth may need to be extracted.
  • Pain after the procedure is very common.
  • Sometimes there can be a recurrence of an infection (the tooth will ache
    and become painful to bite on) but re-treatment can be successful in
    approximately 50% of cases.
  • The metal files used to take out the nerves can fracture in the canal. If thishappens, it is normal procedure to inform the patient, make a note on the file to watch this tooth for any signs of pain or infection and then fill the remaining part of the canal. Should the tooth display negative signs at any time in the future, a re-root treatment will be needed. This may be done by the dentist or you may be referred to a specialist. There is significantly smaller chance of success when a tooth is re-treated. If it is not a success, then the tooth will have to be extracted.
  • It is also possible for the gutta percha point to go through the end of the
    root. Should this happen, you would be notified, a note will be made on
    your file and no further action will be taken unless the tooth displays
    negative signs in the future.

It is your choice whether you wish to undertake this procedure.

Last updated: 10.05.2017 at 17:00 GMT