The success of a root canal procedure depends crucially on complete removal of pulp
and bacteria from the root canal system of the tooth. A challenging task – and even more
so for strongly curved or multiply branched canals.
To clean and disinfect the exposed and mechanically prepared root canals, the canals are
irrigated (flushed) multiple times: Syringes are used to slowly press different fluids with
cleansing and antibacterial properties into the canals, and then suction them out again.
Generally, not even the most laborious manual irrigation protocols will remove all
bacteria from the canals. To improve the results, modern endodontics employ ultrasonic
or laser activated irrigation. What does that mean?
Making whirls in the root canal
Ultrasonic and laser activated irrigation are two methods to get the irrigating fluids to
move around in the root canal system. Thus, the fluid can do a much better job of
removing bacterial films and pulp residue from the root canal’s walls – just as one would
tackle some buildup on the walls of a narrow glass bottle by filling the bottle with water
and shaking it vigorously. Obviously, we’re not going to shake your tooth. Instead, a
small probe emits targeted ultrasonic or laser waves into the fluid-filled canals. The
energy of these waves sends the irrigation fluid into fast vibrations, pressing it into
every nook and cranny of the canal system. It also creates little bubbles that make the
fluid fizz up and further improve its cleaning capacity.