Root canal (or endodontic) treatments involve working inside a tooth to save it after it has been physically damaged by injury, disease or decay.
A tooth has a hollow centre (hence the term ‘canal’) which contains soft tissue (‘pulp’). If this soft tissue is unable to repair itself, it will become inflamed. If left untreated, it will die and become infected. Inflammation or infections can cause pain, tooth sensitivity, pain or swelling of the gums around the tooth and discolouration of the tooth.
Root canal treatment involves removing the affected pulp, cleaning and widening the root canal and filling the root canal. It may involve administering anaesthetics, anti-bacterial medicines and anti-inflammatory medicines, with your consent. The precise course, length and cost of treatment varies from case to case.
Success rates for root canal treatment are very good. If well cared for, a treated tooth can last many years, possibly the remainder of the patient’s lifetime. Generally speaking, dentists would rather save a tooth than extract it, because a natural tooth will typically outperform an artificial tooth and extracting a tooth without replacing it can lead to other problems. For example, it can cause chewing difficulties or cause remaining teeth to tilt sideways into the gap left by the extracted tooth.
That said, not every tooth is likely to be a successful candidate for root canal work. In these cases, your dentist will discuss other treatment options, such as extraction, along with possible complications, to enable you to make an informed decision about the best treatment available in your circumstances.
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