Root canal treatment
Teeth have pulps(nerves). Nerves can get infected at the centre of a tooth (the root canal system).The infection is caused by bacteria that live in the mouth and invade the tooth. This can happen after:Tooth structure
A tooth is made up of two parts. The crown is the top part of the tooth that's visible in the mouth. The root extends into the bone of the jaw, anchoring the tooth in position.
Teeth also consist of:
When root canal treatment is neededRoot canal treatment is only required when dental X-rays show that the pulp has been damaged by a bacterial infection. The pulp will begin to die if it's infected by bacteria, allowing the bacteria to then multiply and spread.
The symptoms of a pulp infection include:
Further symptoms eventually occur, such as:
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 performedTo treat the infection in the root canal, the bacteria need to be removed. This can be done by either:
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.
Read about how root canal treatment is performed.
Recovering from root canal treatmentIt's important to look after your teeth when recovering from root canal treatment. You should avoid biting on hard foods until all of your treatment is complete.
After your final treatment, your restored tooth shouldn't be painful, although it may feel sensitive for a few days.
Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can be used to relieve any discomfort. Return to your dentist if you continue to experience pain or swelling after using painkillers.
In most cases it's possible to prevent the need for further root canal treatment by: