Endodontics (root canal treatment)

What is root canal treatment?

Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard inner layer called the dentine, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root. The pulp is important during a tooth's growth and development. However, once a tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp.

Why is root canal treatment necessary?

Root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a number of causes including deep decay, repeated dental procedures, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, a blow to the tooth can cause damage to the pulp even if the tooth appears intact. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

Signs of pulp damage include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling or tenderness in the nearby gums. Occasionally, there are no symptoms.

How does root canal treatment save the tooth?

The endodontist will remove the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully clean and shape the inside of the tooth, and then will fill and seal the space. Afterwards, you will need to return to your own dentist, who will place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration the tooth will continue to function like any other tooth.

Is root canal treatment painful?

Many root canal treatments are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anaesthetics, most patients report that the procedure is painless and comfortable.

For the first few days after treatment your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can usually be relieved with over the counter medication.

How much will the procedure cost?

Every root canal treatment is specific to a patient and the complexity of a root canal treatment will vary considerably depending upon a number of factors. These will also influence the number and length of visits that will be required. Some treatments will only require one visit and some will require several. Following referral by your dentist, the endodontist will be able to give you an indication of the number and length of visits and of the approximate cost prior to you attending for treatment.

Will the tooth need any additional treatment? 

You should be careful when biting or chewing on your tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist. The unrestored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your own dentist for a full restoration as soon as possible.

Most endodontically treated teeth last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment fails to heal or the pain continues.