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. 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 may need to be taken out. A local anaesthetic is used and it should feel no different to having an ordinary filling done.
The aim of the treatment is to remove all infection from the root canal. The root is then cleaned and filled to prevent any further infection. Root canal treatment is a skilled and time-consuming procedure. Most courses of treatment will involve two or more visits to your dentist.
At the first appointment, the infected pulp is removed. Any abscesses, which may be present, can also be drained at this time. The root canal is then cleaned and shaped ready for the filling. A temporary filling is put in and the tooth is left to settle.
The tooth is checked at a later visit and when all the infection has cleared, the tooth is permanently filled.
A root filled tooth would often darken after treatment. If there is any discolouration, there are several treatments available to restore the natural appearance.
Root canal treatment is usually very successful. However, if the infection comes back the treatment can be repeated.
The alternative is to have the tooth out. Once the pulp is destroyed, it can’t heal and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth. Although some people would prefer an extraction, it is usually best to keep as many natural teeth as possible.
After root treatment, it is best to restore the tooth with a crown to provide extra support and strength to the tooth.
Root canal treatment is a routine dental procedure, however referral to a specialist endodontist is sometimes needed for complex teeth.