What’s root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment (also called endodontics) is needed when the blood or nerve supply of the tooth (known as the pulp) is infected through decay or injury. You may not feel any pain in the early stages of the infection, however, it may be acute and severe and swelling around the tooth and gums can occur.
In some cases, your tooth could darken, which may mean that the nerve of the tooth has died (or is dying). This would also need root canal treatment.
Why is root canal treatment needed?
If the pulp becomes infected, it can spread through the root canal system of the tooth. This may eventually lead to an abscess. An abscess is an inflamed area in which pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues around the tooth. The symptoms of an abscess can range from a dull ache to severe pain and the tooth may be tender when you bite.
If root canal treatment isn’t carried out, the infection can spread and the tooth may need to be removed.
Does it hurt?
No. Usually, a local anaesthetic is used and it should feel no different to having an ordinary filling. There may be some tenderness afterwards but this should reduce over time.
What does it involve?
The aim of the treatment is to remove all the infection from the root canal. The root is then cleaned and filled to prevent further infection.
Root canal treatment is a skilled and time-consuming procedure. Most courses of treatment involve two or more visits to your dentist.
At the first appointment, the infected pulp is removed and any abscesses drained. The root canal is then cleaned and shaped ready for the filling. A temporary filling is put in and the tooth is left to settle.
The tooth is checked at a later visit and when all the infection has cleared, the root canals are further disinfected and permanently filled.
What will my tooth look like after treatment?
In the past, a root-filled tooth would often darken after treatment. However, with modern techniques, this doesn’t usually happen. If there is any discolouration, there are several treatments that can restore the natural appearance.
What if it happens again?
Root canal treatment is usually very successful. However, if the infection comes back, the treatment can sometimes be repeated. Even after root filling teeth with the greatest care and attention, the procedure may not always be successful. Root fillings have a general success rate of above 90%. However, this is dependant on many factors such as level and type of infection.
What if I don’t have the treatment?
The alternative is to have the tooth out. Once the pulp’s destroyed it can’t heal, and it’s not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth.
Although some people would prefer to have the tooth out, it’s usually best to keep as many of your natural teeth as possible.
Will the tooth be safe after treatment?
Yes. However, as a dead tooth is more brittle, it may be necessary to restore the tooth with a crown to provide extra support and strength to the tooth.
When can this treatment be carried out?
Root canal treatment is a routine dental procedure, which your dentist will be happy to do for you. However, sometimes your dentist may refer you to an endodontist, who is a specialist in this type of treatment.
What about aftercare?
Root-treated teeth should be treated just the same as any other tooth. Remember to clean your teeth after two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Cut down on sugary foods and drinks, and keep them only to mealtimes if possible. See your dentist as often as they recommend for regular check-ups.