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 root canal treated xray

The X-Ray shows a root canal treated molar

What is root canal treatment and why do we need it?

Your dentist may have suggested to you that Root Canal Therapy (otherwise known as Endodontics) was needed for a particular tooth. Although you may have been briefed about some of the facts concerning the procedures involved in root canal therapy, you would like some more information.

Earlier, a badly infected tooth, or one that just had significant decay, was doomed to be extracted. Today, the majority of these teeth can be salvaged by the Root Canal Specialist.


What are the benefits of endodontic treatment?

Endodontic treatment saves teeth that would otherwise need to be extracted. Saving your natural teeth, if possible, is the best option.

An extraction is truly the last resort!

Indications of root canal treatment

  • Spontaneous pain or throbbing pain while biting
  • Severe Sensitivity to hot and cold foods
  • Severe decay or an injury that creates an abscess (infection) in the bone


Root Canal Treatment consists of

The removal of the infected or irritated nerve tissue that lies within the root of the tooth. It is this infected pulp tissue that causes an eventual abscess.
The first step in a root canal is to obtain access to the nerve. This is accomplished by establishing a small access opening in the top of the tooth. 
The length of the root canal is determined and the infected pulp is removed.
At the same visit, the canal where the nerve is located will be reshaped and prepared to accept a special root canal filling material.
The final step in your root canal will be the sealing of the root canal with a sterile, plastic material called gutta percha. This is done in order to prevent possible future infection.

Is the procedure painful?

Endodontic treatment does not cause pain; in fact it relieves it. When you have a severe toothache, the toothache most likely is due to damaged tissues in the tooth. Endodontic treatment removes this damaged tissue from the tooth, thereby relieving the pain you feel.
If before the procedure or during procedure patient feels pain this procedure is done under local anesthetics.

Will there be pain after procedure?

Cleaning the root canals may cause some slight tenderness but the discomfort can be relieved by taking some pain killers. If pain persists or if you experience severe pain, call your dentist.
Sometimes when there has been long standing infection or abscess, there may be some soreness associated with the root canal visit. If this should turn out to be true, you will be given specific instructions to follow to minimize the discomfort. When an infection is present, it may be necessary to take an antibiotic

How many appointments are necessary?

Usually two or three visits are necessary. Sometimes it can be completed in one single visit.

How long will the tooth last?

With proper restoration and dental care such as proper brushing and flossing, regular dental check-up, it may last a life time. After the completion of endodontic treatment, your dentists will usually advise on a restoration, for instance a crown that protects the tooth from future fracture. The teeth at the back of the mouth, a crown is commonly required to prevent the tooth from fracturing; heavy chewing on a root canal treated tooth should be avoided until a crown is fitted. A proper restoration after root canal treatment prevents leaks of bacteria into the tooth again and reduces the chances of needing retreatment of the root canals.

Can the endodontic treatment fail?
Endodontic treatment can have success rate of up to 95% in general.However failure can occur if: 
The affected tooth develops decay; 
The restoration on the tooth fails; 
The tooth cracks.


This article is written and contributed exclusively to by: 

Dr.Shekhar Bhatia - BDS(Manipal), MDS(RGUHS), Endodontist

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