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Root canal treatment

We usually recommend root canal treatment (endodontics) when the pulp of the tooth becomes infected, either through decay or injury.  The pulp is a soft mass of tissue inside the tooth, and runs right through the root, carrying the nerve supply and nutrients.  When it becomes infected, that infection can spread throughout the root canal system of the tooth, and can cause an abscess which is usually extremely painful. If left untreated the infection can lead to damage around the bone of the tooth, and the tooth is likely to have to be removed.

Root canal treatment can be quite lengthy – because the area we are treating is so small, it takes a great deal of skill and patience.  This combined with the need to let the infected tooth settle down before we complete the treatment, means you are likely to need two or three appointments with us. 

During the first visit we will need to remove the infected pulp. We will probably start by x-raying the affected tooth to find out the number and shape of the canals to be treated. You’ll then be given a local anaesthetic to numb the tooth and the surrounding area first so you’re in no discomfort before we begin. We will make an opening in the tooth and then use special fine instruments to access the pulp and clean it out.  We will also shape the root canal so it is easier to fill. The next step is to use a root filling to fill the space which has been cleaned. The tooth will need to settle down, so we will give it a temporary filling.  Sometimes this filling will include medication to help to destroy any germs and prevent further infection. On your next visit we will examine the tooth to ensure that the infection has cleared properly, and will replace the temporary filling with a permanent one.  Sometimes a filling will be all you will need, but often the root canal treatment weakens the tooth and it will need strengthening with a crown to strengthen the tooth.

The success rate for Root canal treatment is approximately 97%, in some cases the tooth may need to be retreated if infection reoccurs.

This page was last updated on the 30th of September 2014

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