Root canal treatment is undertaken to remove an infection and the damaged nerve, deep inside the root of a tooth.
Why is root canal treatment needed?
In the middle of each tooth there’s a core of blood vessels and nerves called pulp. The pulp sits inside a space called the root canal. If the pulp becomes infected, the infection may spread through the root canal system of the tooth. This may eventually lead to an abscess. An abscess is an inflamed area in which pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues around the tooth. The symptoms of an abscess can range from a dull ache to severe pain and the tooth may be tender when you bite and can cause swelling around your tooth and jaw.
Sometimes your tooth may look darker in colour than your other teeth, which means that the nerve inside your tooth is dead or dying. Without treatment the infection may spread further into your jawbone and you may need to have the tooth taken out.
What’s involved in a root canal?
The pulp and nerve tissue are removed from inside the root canals, which are then thoroughly cleaned and filled to prevent any further infection. Treatment normally involves two or more visits to your dentist. If your tooth is particularly difficult to treat your dentist may refer you to a specialist endodontist.
What is a specialist endodontist?
A specialist endodontist is a dentist who has undergone specialist training to perform root canal treatment and works with special instruments under magnification, to ensure even the most complicated cases are thoroughly and effectively treated.
After a root canal
For the first few days following the completion of a root canal treatment, the tooth may feel sensitive due to natural tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This sensitivity or discomfort usually can be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Until your root canal procedure is completely finished - that is to say, the permanent filling is in place and/or the crown, it's wise to minimise chewing on the tooth under repair. This step will help avoid re-contamination of the tooth interior and also may prevent a fragile tooth from breaking before the tooth can be fully restored.