But to fully understand that answer there are five more basic questions worth asking.
1. What is root canal therapy?
When bacteria penetrates the skeleton of a tooth, it invades the space in the centre of the tooth (called the “canal”) which is preserved for the nerves and blood vessels (called the “pulp”). The tooth is then considered infected or “dead”. As a first line of defence, the body blocks all blood supply to the tooth to stop bacteria or the disease spreading to the rest of the body. For this reason, the use of antibiotics is not an effective permanent solution.
In these circumstances there are two options. Your dentists could extract the tooth. Or your dentist could save the tooth by disinfecting its “centre” or canal, which is the purpose of root canal therapy, also known as root canal treatment. This is by far the preferred option.
2. Why is it preferable to keep the tooth?
Each one of our teeth is meant to complement its neighbouring and opposing teeth. Losing one is like losing a vital piece of a puzzle – it not only has a cosmetic effect but also has detrimental effects on the neighbouring and opposing teeth, particularly in terms of movement and extra stress, and these effects are almost immediate.
Modern dentistry offers many solutions to the loss of a tooth but none of them is as desirable, from the point of view of both cosmetics and function, as keeping your natural tooth.
3. Who is eligible for root canal therapy?
Just about everyone! There are only a few extreme medical conditions that make a patient ineligible for this treatment – in fact, in cases of pre-existing medical conditions it is often the first choice of treatment over extraction or any other surgical option.
4. Who is qualified to carry out root canal treatment?
All dentists have training that qualifies them to carry out this treatment. However, depending on the complexity of the tooth structure and any pre-existing conditions, it may be prudent to consult a specialist endodontist.
5. Who qualifies as a specialist endodontist?
Endodontists are dentists who have specialised in the field of root canal therapy by undertaking a further three years of full-time training. In Australia they are registered with the Dental Board, which means you can verify their credentials on the website of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
You do not need a referral to see an endodontist and in most cases endodontists and general dentists work together to treat any particular case. At Smile Solutions, registered specialist endodontists work seamlessly with general dentists under the one roof, offering you convenience and complete continuity of care.