What is a Root Canal?
The root canal is the space in the centre of the tooth that contains the dental pulp, a soft tissue that contains nerve endings. It extends from the crown of the tooth down to the roots. The front teeth have a single root canal, but the chewing teeth may have 2 or 3.
A root canal may require treatment if the hard outer layer of the teeth (the enamel) has been damaged by tooth decay or an injury. This allows bacteria to enter the pulp, which can cause severe pain and discomfort.
During root canal treatment, a dentist opens the tooth to access the root canal and remove the infected tissue. It can then be replaced with a synthetic material to help maintain the tooth’s strength.
After the infection has been removed, the tooth will be covered by a dental crown to restore its original look and function. This crown will be custom made by your dentist and may be matched to your natural tooth shade if preferred.
Is a root canal painful?
For many people, the words ‘root canal’ is linked to pain and fear. In fact, a root canal treatment is usually a painless procedure that helps to take away the pain of a pulp infection.
In the past, endodontic treatment may have been painful, as dental equipment was more basic. In today’s dental clinics with modern equipment and sedation, root canal surgery is carried out using a local anaesthetic to numb pain during the procedure. It should feel similar to having a filling.
If you feel nervous about dental treatments, you can also talk to our dentists about the sedation options we offer at our clinic to help anxious patients feel calm and relaxed.
What happens during root canal surgery?
We’ll make sure you have a full understanding of the steps involved in the root canal procedure so you know what to expect. This treatment will usually require several visits to our dental clinic.
There are typically 6 stages involved in root canal treatment, although this can vary. They are:
- Assessment – Your dentist will examine the infected or damaged tooth, using dental x-rays to see the inside of the tooth and plan the most efficient treatment.
- Anaesthesia – Endodontic treatment is carried out using a local anaesthetic to numb the area of the mouth being treated. We can also discuss other types of dental sedation.
- Removing the pulp – Using a dental drill, we will open the tooth to access the root canal and remove the infected pulp.
- Sealing the tooth – After cleaning the root canal to make sure all bacteria and debris have been removed, we will insert a synthetic filling material to seal the tooth. This will also prevent further infections of the tooth.
- Preparing the crown – Once the tooth has been filled, we will reduce its size slightly and take an impression (mould) of the tooth. This will be used to make a custom crown. We’ll place a temporary crown to protect the tooth until your next appointment.
- Fitting the custom crown – When your crown has been manufactured by a dental laboratory, we will arrange an appointment to bond it into place. Porcelain crowns can be colour-matched to your tooth colour for a natural-looking finish.
Root canal risks and recovery
Root canals have a high success rate, with 90% of treated tooth surviving for 8 to 10 years or more. However, if a tooth is more severely damaged, it may not be possible to save it with a root canal and it may need to be extracted.
You can improve the chance of your teeth surviving by following good oral hygiene to take care of your teeth and gums. You should avoid eating hard or sticky foods while the treatment is in progress, as this could damage or dislodge a temporary crown.
After having a root canal treatment, it’s normal to feel some pain, swelling and sensitivity for a few days. This can usually be managed using over-the-counter medication. If you have other symptoms or you still feel pain after a few days, contact our dentists.