Root Canal Treatment

What is 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.

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.

If root canal treatment (RCT) is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth will eventually be lost.

Does it hurt?

No.  A local anaesthetic is used and it should feel no different to having an ordinary filling done.

What does it involve?

Root canal treatment is a complex, skilled and time-consuming procedure.  For single rooted teeth the procedure can be carried out in one visit.  Back teeth often have three or four canals which may require additional visits.

At the first appointment, the root canals are located and, the infected pulp is removed.  The root canal is then cleaned and shaped using precision instruments ready for the root canal filling.  The inside of the tooth is washed and disinfected using a variety of disinfection agents to kill any bacteria. The canals are then dried prior to the placement of the root canal fillings.

What will my tooth look like after treatment?

In the past, a root filled tooth would often darken after treatment. With modern techniques this does not usually happen.  If discolouration does occur there are several treatments available to restore the natural appearance.

Is it expensive?

Due to the complexity of the procedure, the time involved and the cost of the equipment, root canal treatment is relatively expensive compared to other procedures. If successful it should mean that you retain the tooth avoiding costly replacement.

What if I don’t have the treatment?

The alternative is to have the tooth removed.  Once the pulp is destroyed, it cannot fully heal even with antibiotics. It is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth as it can lead to chronic infection and in some cases cyst formation.

Will the tooth be strong after treatment?

Yes. Usually the tooth will be restored with a strong adhesive restoration.  In some cases it is better to restore the tooth with a crown to provide extra support and strength to the tooth. It is advisable to wait at least 6-12 months prior to doing this to ensure that the root treatment is successful.

Can anything go wrong?

Root canal treatment is one of the most technically demanding procedures that dentists perform.
Occasionally things can go wrong. The two main complications involve the failure to actually locate the root canals and the breakage of the metal instruments in the root canals.

If either of these problems occur your dentist will discuss options and possibly suggest a specialist referral.

What about aftercare?

Root-treated teeth should be treated just the same as any other tooth.  Remember to clean your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss regularly. Cut down on sugary snacks, and keep them only to mealtimes if possible.  See your dentist for regular check-ups.

Do they always work?

Root canal treatment can have success rates of up to 90% in general if carried out to a good standard allowing the tooth to remain in function. Problems can occur if the tooth develops decay or the restoration on the tooth fails, or on occasions despite good care the tooth may not heal as expected. Further endodontic treatment or surgery may be carried out if appropriate. A tooth that develops a crack can also be a cause of failure and may result in loss of the tooth.

Return to FAQs