Should I be afraid of having a root canal done?


Although the thought of having a root canal treatment can cause many of us to break out in a cold sweat, having a root canal done is generally painless and offers a solution to a problem. Root canal therapy is complex and requires a great deal of skill and attention to detail.  This is why your dentist will take time to discuss and plan your treatment options.

Why would your dentist recommend a root canal treatment?

  • decay forming underneath existing fillings
  • excessive tooth wear from grinding, clenching or erosion from dietary acids
  • cracks or fractures in teeth
  • accidents or trauma that damages a tooth
  • advanced gum disease (periodontitis)


How is a root canal treatment performed?

Root canal therapy, also called endodontic treatment, involves the removal of bacteria and infection from the centre of the tooth know as the dental pulp. This is a group of tissues consisting of connective tissues, blood supply and nerves which extend into the tooth roots. When the dental pulp is damaged, bacteria can multiply inside the tooth.  Left untreated, this leads to pain, infection or an abscess forming.

Having a root canal treatment starts with a careful dental examination and X-ray of the affected tooth.  This is important for your dentist to see the shape of the root canals and check if there is any infection present in the bone around the tooth.

Step 1 – A local anaesthetic is given to numb the tooth and surrounding tissue. A dental dam is often used, this helps the tooth to stay clean and dry from saliva.

Step 2- The dentist prepares the tooth so that the infection can be cleaned from the centre of the tooth and from the central canals within the roots of the teeth. There can be 1 or 2 root canals in the front teeth and 3-4 root canals in the back teeth.

Step 3 – Once the root canals have been cleaned and sterilised, they can be permanently sealed with a special material called ‘gutta percha’.

Step 4 – A tooth that has undergone root canal treatment is often weaker than an intact tooth. A strong permanent cover known as a dental crown is often required to allow the tooth to be safely used during chewing and eating and provides long term protection from further breakdown.


How could you feel after a root canal?

People commonly describe a sense of relief after the procedure. Once the infection and dental pulp are removed, the tooth does not have any sensation of hot/cold or pain.   Mild pain relievers after the procedure can help to relieve any temporary discomfort. Your dentist will guide you on ways to relieve any pain.


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