Getting to the root of endodontic treatment

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What is endodontic (root canal) treatment?

The ‘root canal’ system lies at the centre of your tooth and contains the dental ‘pulp’ (the blood and nerve supply to your tooth). Sometimes decay, a faulty filling or an injury can expose the root canal system to infection, which may lead to an abscess.

Endodontic treatment aims to remove infected material from the root canal system and fill the tooth to prevent any further damage or infection, and it usually involves two or more visits to your dentist or an endodontist.

What happens during root canal treatment?

Once the dentist has x-rayed the problem tooth and confirmed that you need endodontic treatment, the next step will be to remove the infected pulp from the root canal and drain any abscesses that have formed. The dentist thoroughly cleans the root canal and drills the tooth in preparation for filling. A temporary filling is then applied to protect the tooth.
On the next visit, the dentist will check that there is no sign of residual infection before permanently filling the tooth. Sometimes they may recommend a dental crown or cap to protect the root canal.

Is root canal treatment painful?

Like fillings, root canal treatment is usually done under local anaesthetic. While it is a lengthy treatment, endodontic treatment shouldn’t cause any more pain than having a tooth filled does. However, as with any dental treatment, if you feel pain and the local anaesthetic does not seem to be working, raise your hand to alert the dentist immediately.

What are the risks of endodontic treatment?

Traditional root canal treatments often caused the tooth to darken over time, but this is rare today. If it does occur, the dentist can recommend a bleaching treatment to restore the tooth’s natural colour. After root canal treatment, the tooth is effectively ‘dead’ as there is no nerve supply remaining, and this can make the tooth more brittle and liable to cracking. Your dentist may recommend a dental crown to strengthen and protect the tooth.

How much does root canal treatment cost?

On the NHS, endodontic treatment costs around £50. Private costs for root canal treatment vary from around £100 to £600 per tooth.

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