Root canal treatment

What is a root canal treatment?

Inside the tooth is a hollow centre containing ‘pulp’. Pulp is a sensitive tissue made up of blood vessels and nerves that provides oxygen, nutrients and feeling to the tooth.

The pulp is found all through the tooth and the space where the pulp sits in the root is called the root canal.

Root canal treatment is a dental procedure that replaces damaged or infected pulp in the tooth’s root canal, with a filling.

Why might I need a root canal treatment?

If you have damaged or infected pulp in one or more of the roots of your teeth, or an abscess has developed, you may need a root canal treatment. This damage or infection may have been caused by untreated dental decay (ADA website), decay beneath a filling, tooth damage, tooth grinding (bruxism) or gum disease.

Please note: Root canal treatment will not be offered if the tooth is loose or if only a small amount of tooth remains as the treatment is not likely to be successful in these cases.

What should I expect with root canal treatment?

This procedure may need to be completed over several visits.

root canal stages 1

  1. The infected tooth.
  2. The dental professional will make an opening in the top of the tooth.
  3. The diseased pulp and bacteria are flushed out with disinfectant and the root canals are cleaned with special instruments.

    root canal stages 2
  4. The pulp chamber and root canals are filled and sealed.
  5. The tooth opening is restored with a filling.
  6. After a root canal treatment, a tooth may be more likely to break. It can be strengthened (to stop it from splitting while eating) with a cap or ‘crown’.

What are the alternatives to a root canal treatment?

  • Remove the tooth – Removing the tooth will leave a gap that may need to be replaced by an artificial tooth.
  • Leave the tooth untreated – If left untreated an infection may occur and can spread to the jaw. Pus can build up and cause pain. Cysts may also develop and need further treatment.

Are there risks involved in a root canal treatment?

Like any medical procedure, a root canal treatment poses some risk and, on rare occasions, there may be complications. These complications may result in a tooth needing additional treatment, referral to a specialist* or may result in the tooth needing to be removed.

Please note: In most cases root canal treatment is very successful. Speak with your dentist if you have any concerns about the treatment.

*Patients may be referred to specialist services at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne (Carlton). There is a waiting list for dental care and additional fees or co-payments may be charged.