Endodontics is the medical term for treatment of the dental pulp, the soft living tissue and cells in the middle of the teeth which nourish and keep them alive. The pulp can become diseased for various reasons and this leads to ‘devitalisation’ of the pulp and the tooth and, in more severe cases, can start destroying the bone that supports the tooth. If left untreated, a diseased tooth will eventually loosen and fall out.
The dental pulp becomes infected when bacteria manages to infiltrate the tooth and causes an infection. In a healthy tooth, there is a natural barrier preventing bacteria entering the pulp, but if a tooth becomes unhealthy or compromised in some way, this barrier fails. The most common causes of this are tooth decay due to insufficient oral hygiene, failing restorations, like a defective filling or crown, cracks, damage from a blow to the tooth perhaps in an accident, and gum disease.
Endodontic disease can manifest itself in a number of ways, including sensitivity to both hot and cold liquids and pain when biting or chewing. It can be intermittent pain which occurs when doing any of the above activities, or it can be constant, and both low-level and severe. It can also occur when changing position, like from lying down to standing up or respond to changes in pressure.
If you experience any sort of sensitivity with your tooth, it’s important to come and see us as soon as possible to receive early treatment.
If we see signs of disease, the preferred course of action is root canal treatment. This is when one of our experienced dentists carefully removes any infected pulp tissue from the inside of the tooth. After this, they meticulously clean and disinfect the healthy remaining pulp and root to make sure all the infection has been removed. The final step is to fill the root back up with special root-filling material which restores the root to its correct function and protects it from further infection.
If the disease has been left untreated for a while, the effect can be more severe, as the root tip can be infected and an abscess may form. In the most severe cases, the infection then moves into the bone supporting the root and causes bone loss and sometimes a cyst. For these cases an ‘apicectomy’ is performed, where the root tip is removed and any abscess or cyst treated. Where the whole root is lost, your bone will need to be repaired and a replacement tooth secured with an implant.
Treatment can normally be carried out in one or two visits and we always make sure we give appropriate anaesthesia so that it is as comfortable for you as possible. By quickly and effectively treating the disease, we can finally free you from that constant, joy-sapping pain that you have been enduring, and restore your pain-free smile.
Another way of replacing a missing tooth or set of teeth is fixing a bridge. A bridge is a structure that supports one or more replacement teeth and is supported by a crown on each end, thus forming a 'bridge' across the gap. Bridges are fixed into the mouth and cannot be removed, so they are a long-term, stable solution to missing teeth.
In addition to restoring existing teeth and anchoring bridges, crowns can be used to replace a single missing tooth as the visible component of an implant, which replaces the root of the missing tooth.
Dentures are a removable option for replacing a lost tooth or teeth. They custom-made to fit snugly on top of the gums and are sometimes fixed in place with adhesives. Dentures are a cost-effective solution for replacing missing teeth, and are relatively easy to clean and maintain as they can be removed from the mouth.
Perhaps the ultimate in tooth replacement is the dental implant, an increasingly popular option, as it is a permanent fixture that replaces not only the visible portion of the tooth, but the root as well. This allows you greater strength and stability in eating and also prevents your jawbone from receding, which can in turn cause facial muscles to sag and make you look older than you are. Read more about implants here.
It’s important to have regular check-ups with us so that we can monitor your teeth and advise you if we think you need any restorative work. The sooner a tooth is treated, the less invasive the treatment needs to be. Also, if you have lost a tooth or teeth, it is important to have restorative work, as a full set of teeth supports the bone structure of the mouth and the surrounding facial tissue. You will reduce the risk of age-related facial sagging, which is caused by loss of facial bone.
With so many restorative options available, the first step is to book an appointment with one of our experienced dentists in South East London who can help you choose the right treatment for you. To book an appointment, call us on 020 8467 6755 or email [email protected]