A root canal infection may not be painful in the early stages, in fact you may notice your tooth darkens in colour before you can feel it. This might mean the nerve of the tooth has died (or is dying) and in this instance you will need a root canal treatment.
If the pulp becomes infected, the infection may spread through the root canal system of the tooth. This may eventually lead to an abscess. An abscess is an inflamed area in which pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues around the tooth. The symptoms of an abscess can range from a dull ache to severe pain and the tooth may be tender when you bite. If root canal treatment is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth may need to be taken out.
The aim of the treatment is to remove all infection from the root canal. The root is cleaned and filled to prevent any further infection.
Root canal treatment process
Root canal treatment is a skilled and time-consuming procedure. Most courses of treatment will involve two or more visits to your dentist.
At the first appointment, the infected pulp is removed, and any abscesses can be drained. The root canal is then cleaned and shaped ready for the filling. A temporary filling is put in and the tooth is left to settle.
The tooth is checked at a later visit and when all the infection has cleared, the tooth is permanently filled.
Benefits of root canal treatment
- In the past, a root-filled tooth would often darken after treatment. However, with modern techniques this does not usually happen. If there is any discolouration, there are several treatments available to restore the natural appearance.
- After root canal treatment your tooth will be safe. However, as a dead tooth is more brittle, it may be necessary to restore the tooth with a crown to provide extra support and strength to the tooth.
Root canal aftercare
Root-treated teeth should be treated just the same as any other tooth. Clean your teeth for two minutes, twice a day with a floured toothpaste. Cut down on sugary foods and drinks, and keep them only to mealtimes if possible.
Root canal treatment FAQ’s
- Does root canal treatment hurt?
No. Usually, a local anaesthetic is used and it should feel no different to having an ordinary filing done. There may be some tenderness afterwards but this will fade shortly afterwards.
- What if it happens again?
Root canal treatment is usually very successful. However if the infection comes back, the treatment can sometimes been repeated.
- What if I don’t have the treatment?
The alternative to root canal treatment is to have the tooth taken out. Once the pulp is destroyed it can heal, and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth. Although some people would prefer to have the tooth out, it is usually best to keep as many natural teeth as possible.