When is root canal therapy indicated?
When a tooth is fractured, bacteria enters the inner layer (root or pulp) of the tooth and brings infection into the tip of the root, which causes pain and surrounding bone destruction. On the surface the tooth may look relatively normal or may appear discoloured.
Root canal therapy is a much less invasive and painful method to treat these fractured/discoloured teeth compared to surgical extraction.
Root canal therapy is particularly useful to save teeth that are functionally important, such as:
– Canine (fang) teeth
– Chewing molars/premolars (carnassial teeth)
What does root canal therapy involve?
In order to prepare a tooth for root canal therapy, the tooth must first receive a dental COHAT. (link to dental COHAT page when we have a separate page for this) This includes an external examination, dental x-rays and scaling and polishing. Access points are then created on the tooth surface to reach the entire tooth root to remove its pulp contents, sterilize and fill the root/pulp chamber, seal the canal and restore the access point with composites.
What aftercare is needed?
After root canal therapy, pets can generally go back to normal eating and activity, save chewing on very hard objects such as bones for the first few weeks (which should be avoided for all dogs anyway). Working dogs may also have to avoid hard bite work for the first 2 to 3 weeks. Owners may notice that their pets eat more readily and comfortably as the source of infection and pain is removed.
Routine rechecks are essential periodically, initially about 2 weeks post procedure, then 3 to 6 months after for repeat dental x-rays to monitor the tooth, its root and surrounding bony structures.
Owners are also asked to institute daily dental home care with brushing (if not already a routine), as recommended for all dogs and cats in general.
Are there any alternatives to root canal therapy?
When teeth have infected roots, the only treatment options are surgical extraction or root canal therapy. Leaving the tooth alone otherwise will only result in progressive infection, pain and destruction of the tooth and surrounding bony structures. Bacteria can also spread via the bloodstream to cause infections in distant organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys.
Root canal therapy is the less painful and less invasive treatment option.
Amber Vet offers root canal therapy services with Dr Brian Loon.