A root canal is a dental procedure designed to remove decay from the pulp,(blood and nerve supply), and root of a tooth. Your tooth comprises an outer enamel layer, a second dentin layer, and a soft inner core that extends into the jawbone. This core houses the dental pulp, containing nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue.
When decay penetrates the soft-core, it can lead to inflammation, infection, or even necrosis (death) of the pulp. In such cases, a root canal is necessary to eliminate the decay and address the underlying issue.
Dentists with specialised training in root canal treatments are known as Endodontists, with their specialty being focused on studying and treating dental pulp.
What is a root canal
A root canal will see your dentist clean out decay to preserve an infected tooth. After the infected pulp is removed, the root canals are cleaned, disinfected and then filled and sealed.
If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
Root canal treatment is designed to save a tooth, the alternative would be a dental extraction.
Why do I need root canal treatment?
When the tooth pulp becomes irreversibly damaged it needs to be removed. This is done by a root canal treatment. The pulp can become damaged for a number of reasons, including:
- Tooth decay
- Cracked tooth
- Gum disease
- Trauma to the tooth
Signs you may need a root canal
The only way to know for sure if you need a root canal is by visiting your dentist, but there are some warning signs that you should be on the lookout for, such as:
- Persistent tooth pain
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- Tooth discolouration
- Swollen gums
- Pain when you eat or touch a tooth
- A chipped or cracked tooth
- Tooth mobility
Root canal procedure
Before a root canal procedure, an X-ray of your tooth will be taken, and sometimes a CBCT scan needs to be done to allow a 3D image of the tooth.
Root canal treatment is done with local anesthetic so you are awake for the procedure.
During a root canal, your dentist will isolate the infected tooth with a rubber sheet, called rubber dam. The infected pulp tissue inside the root canal is then removed and the canal system is disinfected. The canal system is then sealed and filled with a rubber-like material called gutta percha.
Most root-treated teeth will require a crown after treatment. This aims to prevent a tooth from fracturing.
How long does a root canal take?
A root canal will normally take between 1 to 2 hours depending on the complexity of the case. In most cases, it will be completed in 1 visit but occasionally several appointments can be needed.
Do root canals hurt?
Typically there is little to no discomfort involved in a root canal procedure. Often there is pain before treatment from the inflamed pulp tissue. While cleaning the root canals may result in mild tenderness, it is typically manageable with Ibuprofen and Paracetamol.
In around 1-2% of cases, patients may experience some pain or swelling following a root canal. If this occurs, it’s best to contact the dental surgery for guidance.
Root canal treatment side effects and risks
Althoug rare, several complications may occur during root canal treatment:
1 – We use irritants to disinfect the canal systems and there is a risk that these can be extruded into the tissues surrounding the root, if this happens you will be given advice about what to do. This is a very rare event.
2 – We use very fine stainless steel and Nickel Titanium hand and rotary files to prepare root canals and there is always a risk that these could separate. If this happens you will be informed and the options will depend on where the instrument has separated.
3 – Sometimes canals are very fine and it can be difficult to locate them and then get an instrument into them. In these cases there is a small chance that in attempting to find a canal a perforation can occur, where the instrument breaches the side of the root. These can be repaired and you will be informed if there is a higher risk for this to happen, before treatment starts.
4 – There are sometimes canals that are very narrow or completely blocked and therefore can’t be instrumented by conventional methods. This would be discussed with you and sometimes a surgical approach is a better option.
Root canal aftercare
Typically, the recovery period for a root canal is less than a week. If you experience persistent pain in the treated tooth beyond this timeframe, it is advised to contact your dentist.
To aid healing after a root canal, the following can help:
- Eat soft foods during the initial days post-treatment.
- Avoid chewing on the treated tooth, especially if you are awaiting the placement of a permanent crown.
- If you are a smoker, consider taking a break from smoking, as it can hinder the healing process of your tooth.
- Maintain good oral hygiene practices by brushing your teeth after every meal and flossing once a day.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash regularly to prevent the growth of germs and support overall oral health.
How much does a root canal cost?
At NEYO, root canal treatment costs £795.
It will always be discussed with you if the treatment costs more. Normally this is when surgery is involved for a case. You will always be given an estimate for your treatment.
You will need to get a separate quote from your Dentist for a crown.
Are there alternatives to a root canal?
The alternative to a root canal would be a tooth extraction. This would mean you may end up with a gap in your teeth where the infected tooth was removed. The missing tooth can be replaced by:
1 – A removable denture
2 – Adhesive bridge or a conventional bridge
3 – Implant retained crown
How successful are root canal treatments and will I need a follow-up?
Initial root canal treatment will have success rates over 90%, particularly if carried out by someone with specialist training. Root canal re-treatment can have slightly lower success rates. This will be discussed with you at an initial consultation.
It’s recommended to have a follow-up X-ray a year after the root canal has been completed, to check the healing of the tissues around the root of the tooth.
If you would like further advice or information about the treatment types available for your dental concerns, contact us by phone or pop in for a chat at our clinic in Burgess Hill, Sussex.