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. In some cases, your tooth could darken in colour, which may mean that the nerve of the tooth has died (or is dying).
Why is root canal treatment needed?
If the pulp becomes infected, the infection may spread through the root canal system of the tooth. This may eventually lead to an abscess (gumboil). 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 is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth may need to be taken out.
Does root canal treatment hurt?
No, a local anaesthetic is used and it should feel no different to having an ordinary filling done. There may be some tenderness afterwards but this should gradually get less over time.
What does it involve?
The aim of the treatment is to remove all infection from the root canal. The root is then cleaned and filled to prevent any further infection.
Root canal treatment is a skilled and time-consuming procedure. Most courses of treatment will involve two or more visits to your dentist.
At the first appointment, the infected pulp is removed, and any abscesses can be 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.
What will my tooth look like after treatment?
A root-filled tooth can sometimes darken after treatment. If there is any discolouration, there are several treatments available to restore the natural appearance.
Who can do it for me?
Root canal treatment is a routine dental procedure, which your dentist will be happy to do for you. However, sometimes due to difficulty in access, complexity or curvature of roots you may be referred.
What if it happens again?
Root canal treatment is usually very successful at 90%. However, if the infection comes back, the treatment can sometimes be repeated and can still give a success rate of about 70% depending on the tooth.
On re-root canal cases it is highly likely that you will need to be referred due to the complexity of the initial failure of the root canal treatment.
What if I don’t have the treatment?
The alternative is to have the tooth out. Once the pulp is destroyed it can’t heal, and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth.
Although some people would prefer to have the tooth out, it is usually best to keep as many natural teeth as possible.
Will the tooth be safe after treatment?
A tooth becomes more brittle after root canal treatment. A crown is definitely advised on premolar and molar teeth to protect it long term. Without this, there is a risk of the tooth fracturing resulting in possible extraction.