All about
Root Canal Treatment

What is a Root Canal?

A tooth is made up of two parts. The crown is the top part of the tooth that’s visible in the mouth. The root extends into the bone of the jaw, anchoring the tooth in position.

The root canal system contains the dental pulp and extends from the crown of the tooth to the end of the root. A single tooth can have more than one root canal.

What is Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment (also called endodontics) is a dental procedure used to treat infection at the centre of a tooth (the root canal system) which is usually caused by decay or injury.

Why do I need Root Canal treatment?

The root canal can become infected for a number of reasons; most commonly tooth decay or impact injuries to the tooth.

Other causes include cracks, gaps around crowns and occasionally gum disease. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscesses may form.

The signs and symptoms include tooth discolouration, a painful reaction to hot and cold food or drinks, tenderness when biting on the tooth or a gumboil.

What is the procedure?

The treatment is provided under local anaesthetic which is used to numb your tooth. An opening is then made to access the inside of the tooth, which is then cleaned out using instruments and antimicrobial solutions. The root canal is then filled and the opening closed with a filling. The dentist may take x-rays before, during and after the appointment.

Is it painful?

Although this procedure used to be painful, modern techniques and anaesthetics mean there is little, or usually, no pain at all.

After the treatment, mild discomfort is expected, but this is usually manageable with paracetamol and ibuprofen. In just 1-2% of cases, a post-operative “flare up” can occur that may require further treatment or antibiotics.

How long will the treatment take?

Two visits are usually required. After the first visit, an antibacterial medication is placed inside the canal and a temporary filling is applied to your teeth. In some cases the treatment can be completed in one visit. Occasionally more than two visits might be required, for example if a large area of infection is discovered or if the canal is difficult to locate.

What are the complications and risks?

A root canal is performed in an eff ort to save your tooth, but sometimes the damage is too deep or the enamel is too frail to withstand the procedure. These factors can lead to loss of the tooth.

Another risk is developing an abscess at the root of the tooth, if some of the infected material remains behind or if the antibiotics aren’t effective.

The chance of developing complications is dependent on the complexity of the treatment, which can be discussed with your dentist before the procedure is booked.

How likely is the treatment to be successful?

Endodontic treatment can have success rate of up to 90%. Problems can occur if the tooth develops decay or the restoration on the tooth fails, or, on occasions, and despite good care, the tooth may not heal as expected. Further endodontic treatment or surgery may be carried out if appropriate.

Are all teeth suitable for treatment?

Occasionally a tooth cannot be saved. Root canal treatment can be performed only if the canals are accessible and can be adequately cleaned and sealed. The tooth must also have sufficient bone support. Dentists will only carry out treatment where they can give a good long-term outlook.