Millions of teeth are saved every year with root canal treatment (commonly referred to as a root canal).

Patients typically need root canal treatment when bacteria enter the pulp and cause inflammation or infection in the roots of a tooth. The pulp is the soft tissue inside the tooth and is commonly referred to as the nerve.

Bacteria produce pus inside the tooth and when this builds up at the end of a root, an abscess develops. Bacteria enter the pulp as a result of deep decay or fillings, leaky fillings or crowns, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, cracks, fractures or trauma.

Root canal treatment removes the bacteria, along with the damaged pulp by carefully cleaning and disinfecting the inside of the tooth. Finally, the root canals are filled and sealed.

While some cases involve just one visit, others will require two or more appointments. Each appointment typically lasts one to two hours depending on the tooth and its complexity.

After successful root canal treatment, the tooth continues to function normally.

Signs or symptoms to look out for include the following:

  • Sharp, intense pain which is difficult to pinpoint
  • Sharp pain or tenderness when biting down on your tooth
  • Lingering pain after eating or drinking anything cold or hot
  • Dull ache and pressure
  • Tenderness and/or swelling in the nearby gum or face
  • Gum boil or pimple on gum
  • Discoloured tooth

Sometimes, however, you may have no symptoms at all.

Root canal treatment is not usually painful as endodontists receive advanced training in the management of dental pain. No one is better prepared to ensure that you have a comfortable experience.

After treatment, it is normal to feel some tenderness in the area as your body undergoes the natural healing process. These symptoms are temporary and can normally be relieved with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and/or paracetamol.

However, if you feel pain or swelling that is getting worse, please contact us.

Why not opt for an extraction? Especially if no one can see it. You may think it’s easier and more cost effective. However, missing teeth can affect your ability to chew, cause other teeth to shift, and have a negative effect on your appearance. Also, no replacement tooth will look, feel or function as well as your natural tooth.

Your first visit will consist of a consultation to determine the correct diagnosis. This will include a series of diagnostic tests and radiographs (X-rays). These will help to determine if root canal treatment is necessary.

The source of a toothache is often difficult to pinpoint and can be felt in another tooth and/or the ear, face or jaw. Endodontists are specialists in diagnosing this type of pain.

In many cases, a consultation and treatment can be carried out on the same visit in order to minimise visits for the patient. This is usually the case when a patient is in pain and we have been asked to see you as an emergency.

In most cases we will have a copy of a recent X-ray provided to us by your dentist. However, additional X-rays will most likely be required to properly make an accurate diagnosis. They are an integral part of both the examination and treatment.

Although you will most likely be numb for two to four hours following root canal treatment, most patients are able to return to work straight away.

Sometimes a tooth can become slightly discoloured following a root canal. Generally, these teeth can be whitened by the endodontist afterwards using internal bleaching.

Teeth generally require a crown following root canal treatment, especially in the case of back teeth, which are used for chewing. Crowns help to protect teeth from fracturing.

Root canal treatment is a predictable procedure with a success rate of up to 95% and most teeth last as long as other teeth. However, as with any medical or dental procedure, there is no guarantee and occasionally a tooth that has undergone treatment does not heal properly or becomes symptomatic months or years after a successful treatment.

If root canal treatment is unsuccessful, the tooth can sometimes be maintained with a second root canal treatment or root-end surgery. In such cases, Dr Duddy will advise you on the best course of action.

Unfortunately, not all teeth are suitable for root canal treatment and, in such cases, Dr Duddy will advise you against proceeding. Factors which render a tooth unsuitable for root canal treatment include poor bone support around the tooth or insufficient sound tooth structure remaining to make the tooth restorable afterwards. Cracks are another factor which may render the tooth unsuitable for root canal treatment.

Unlike a broken bone, a cracked tooth will not heal completely. While root canal treatment and placement of a crown on a cracked tooth will usually relieve pain and slow down the crack, most cracks tend to spread over time. Generally, these teeth are eventually lost.

Please talk to Dr Duddy about your particular diagnosis and treatment options.

While cracked teeth are not completely preventable, you can take some steps to help:

  • Try not to clench or grind your teeth (often associated with stress)
  • If you clench or grind your teeth while you sleep, ask your dentist for a nightguard (mouthguard)
  • Don’t chew on hard foods or objects such as ice, hard sweets, popcorn kernels or pens etc.
  • Wear a mouthguard or protective mask when playing contact sports

Often, the only practical option to root canal treatment is an extraction.

The cost of root canal treatment varies depending on which tooth requires treatment. Back teeth are more difficult to treat and, therefore, the cost is higher. Tax relief (at 20%) is available and some insurance schemes contribute to the cost.

Receipts and MED 2 forms are provided on completion of treatment to enable you to claim your tax relief or make an insurance claim.

Payment can be made by cash, cheque or credit/debit card and full payment is required on completion of treatment.

Root canal treatment is a time-consuming procedure. As a reminder, we confirm all appointments in advance by telephone or text. Cancellations made later than 12 noon on the day before an appointment will generally incur a cancellation fee. However, we understand that sometimes cancelling an appointment at short notice cannot be avoided.