Root canal treatment

Root canal treatment is necessary when the nerve in a tooth has become irreversibly inflamed or has completely died off and become infected. This usually presents as a painful tooth. It can be tender to bite on, throbbing, sensitive to changes in temperature and may keep you awake at night. There may also be swelling of the face or gums. If an abscess is present, antibiotics may be necessary. Root canal treatment is commonly undertaken as result of deep decay/fillings, cracked/fractured teeth or trauma.

Root canal treatment takes a number of visits and in most cases a crown is recommended afterwards to protect the tooth from breaking.

The process:

  1. Local anaesthetic is given.
  2. The fillings and/or decay is removed from the tooth just like during a regular filling.
  3. The dying or dead nerve is removed from the roots of the tooth (canals) and the infection is drained.
  4. The canals are disinfected with an irrigating solution.
  5. Some X-rays are taken during the process to verify correct positioning of the canal.
  6. A dressing is placed for a few weeks until the pain has subsided before the root canal treatment is finished.
  7. The canals of the tooth are filled with a rubber-like material and a filling is placed into the cavity.

Australian Dental Association Fact Sheets

Dental x-rays – What lies beneath the surface