Root canal treatment

Why do teeth become infected?

​Each tooth has a system of blood vessels and nerves inside it called the pulp. The pulp extends from the crown (visible portion of tooth) to the tip of the root. If the tooth is badly damaged, bacteria enter the pulp causing the tissue to become inflamed or infected.

The tooth may become infected if there is:

  • a breakdown of a filling or crown

  • a deep cavity

  • trauma

  • gum disease

  • a crack or chip

  • extreme wear

  • extensive dental work to the tooth


If a tooth is badly damaged the pulp tissue inside becomes infected.

Root canal treatment

The aim of root canal treatment (also called endodontic treatment) is to save a tooth that has become infected. Root canal treatment is the process of removing the infected tissue within the tooth, carefully cleaning and disinfecting the canals and then sealing the hollow space where the pulp tissue was. Once the root canal treatment is complete, the tooth is restored with a white filling. Following root canal treatment, your tooth may become weaker as it no longer has a blood supply. This is especially true for back teeth and teeth that are missing a lot of tooth structure. In these cases, a crown is usually recommended to strengthen the tooth and improve the long term success of your treatment.

Why save an infected tooth?

Once a tooth becomes infected, you can save it by completing a root canal treatment or have the tooth removed. Most people prefer to save their teeth as your own tooth is usually stronger and more efficient for biting and chewing than any artificial replacement.

Can all infected teeth be saved?

Unfortunately, not all teeth can be restored. Your dentist will not complete a root canal treatment unless the treatment has a high chance of success. Root canal treatment may not be appropriate in some cases, and extraction may be the best or only option.

To improve the chances of success, root canal treatment should be started as soon as possible.  If the pulp of the tooth is not treated quickly, severe pain and an abscess can occur.  If an abscess is left untreated, infection can damage the bone surrounding the root.

What to expect after root canal treatment

  • The anaesthetic will usually last for a few hours. Take care to not chew your lip, tongue or cheek while you are still numb.

  • The gum tissue could have been irritated during your procedure and may be sore for a few days. 

  • Some patients may continue to have pain around the tooth, or the tooth may feel slightly different to the other teeth both during and after treatment.  If the pain is severe or lasts more than a few days please call us.

  • After the anaesthetic wears off, if your bite feels uneven please call us to arrange an appointment to have it adjusted.

  • The root canals are filled and the pulp chamber is sealed, however the tooth can still decay. To prevent decay and gum disease from occurring you need to maintain good daily oral hygiene.

  • In some cases a root canal treated tooth may become darker in colour. If you are unhappy about the appearance of your tooth, talk to your dentist to discuss cosmetic options such as internal bleaching or a crown.

Book now to talk with a dentist about your options