Root Canal Treatment
Root canal treatment is required when the nerve pulp inside the tooth begins to die leading to its infection by bacteria, allowing the bacteria to then multiply and spread.
The symptoms of a pulp infection include:
pain when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drink
pain when biting or chewing
a loose tooth
As the infection progresses, these symptoms often disappear as the pulp dies. Your tooth then appears to have healed, but the infection has in fact spread through the root canal system.
Further symptoms eventually occur, such as:
pain when biting or chewing returning
swelling of the gum near the affected tooth
pus oozing from the affected tooth
the tooth becoming a darker colour
It's important to see your dentist if you develop a toothache. If your tooth is infected, the pulp can't heal by itself.
Leaving the infected tooth in your mouth may make it worse. There may also be less chance of the root canal treatment working if the infection within your tooth becomes established.
Antibiotics – medication to treat bacterial infections – aren't effective in treating root canal infections.
How root canal treatment is performed
To treat the infection in the root canal, the bacteria need to be removed. This can be done by either:
removing the bacteria from the root canal system (root canal treatment)
removing the tooth (extraction)
However, removing the tooth isn't usually recommended as it's better to keep as many of your natural teeth as possible.
After the bacteria have been removed, the root canal will be filled and the tooth sealed with a filling or crown. In most cases, the inflamed tissue near the tooth will heal naturally.
Before having root canal treatment, you'll usually be given a local anaesthetic. This means the procedure shouldn't be painful and should be no more unpleasant than having a filling.
Root canal treatment is usually successful. In about 9 out of 10 cases a tooth can survive for up to 10 years after root canal treatment.