Veterinary Dental Center

Root Canal Therapy

What is Endodontic (Root Canal) Treatment? Endodontics is a branch of dentistry concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases or injuries to the dental pulp. The pulp, which some people call "the nerve", is the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains the nerves and blood vessels and is responsible for tooth development. Root canal treatment is a safe and effective means of saving teeth that otherwise would be lost.

What Causes the Pulp to Die or Become Diseased? When a pulp is injured, diseased, and unable to repair itself, it becomes inflamed and eventually dies. The most frequent causes of pulp death are tooth fracture, extensive decay, trauma (e.g., severe blow to a tooth), cracks in teeth, and periodontal or gum disease. When a pulp is exposed to bacteria from saliva, infection may occur inside the tooth and, if left untreated, will cause an infection to build up at the tip of the root, forming an abscess. Eventually the bone supporting the tooth will be destroyed, and pain and swelling will often accompany the infection. Without endodontic treatment, the tooth will eventually have to be removed.

What Are the Symptoms of a Diseased Pulp? Initially, symptoms may range from mild-to-moderate pain that lasts for a few days to weeks. Humans tend to experience pain related to heat and cold whereas in many cases the pet will show no symptoms at all.

Root Canal Therapy

What Does Root Canal Treatment Involve? The root canal is cleaned and enlarged with a series of files (Figure 1). Throughout this process, the canal is flushed with an antiseptic to sterilize the canal. Next the canal is dried and filled with a cement and inert material called gutta percha (Figure 2). Finally, the fracture site and access site(s) are filled with restorative material to prevent recontamination of the root canal system.

This procedure is performed under a general anesthetic with special attention to patient monitoring. It is typically a one step procedure and the pet returns home that afternoon.

Endodontic Treatment

What Is the Success Rate of Root Canal Therapy? Studies indicate that root canal
treatment is usually over 90% successful.

What Are the Alternatives to Root Canal Treatment? The only alternative is to extract the tooth. This requires oral surgery to create a gingival flap to allow the removal of supporting bone. Then the gingival flap is elevated and released to allow it to be sutured over the extraction site.

Will the Tooth Need a Crown or Cap After the Treatment? The need for a crown depends on the pet's lifestyle. Many of our pets as well as working dogs (police, therapy, & hunting dogs) tend to use their teeth more aggressively in daily forceful chewing or the retrieving of their balls and toys. These pets benefit from the protection and strength a metal crown offers.

Harry broke a tooth, had a root canal procedure, and this metal crown will protect his lower canine tooth.

Canine Crown

For more information please refer to the Restoration/Crown section of our website.