Published On: February 18th, 2016Categories: General Dental691 words3.6 min read

Recently, we have started to perform a lot more root canal treatments at our practice. So I thought this would be a good topic for our blog.

When people hear the term “root canal” feelings of pain and fear tend to shudder down your spine almost instantly. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.

First of all, let’s talk about why a tooth would require a root canal treatment

Dental Decay

When the blood or nerve supply of a tooth (the pulp) becomes injured, through trauma, tooth decay, fracture, large fillings due to large cavities in the past, then the pulp begins to die off.

The pulp can die off painfully or silently.

Tooth Pain Cartoon

It is when it dies off painfully, that people have the dreaded raging toothache, and can’t tell from where the pain is coming!

Whether the pulp dies painfully or silently, it will ultimately result in a “dead space” in the tooth, where there is no blood or nerve supply. As such, your body’s immune system cannot reach this and it becomes a feeding ground for the normal bacteria living in your mouth.

Long-term this can result in the tooth becoming infected, causing pain as the bacteria slowly leaches out of the tooth and eventually a dental abscess, where your face becomes swollen.

So what do we do?

  • First the decay in the tooth needs to be removed. If the tooth is so heavily decayed that there is little tooth left afterwards to retain even a filling, then unfortunately the tooth would be best removed.
  • The pulp space is then accessed and the canals of the tooth which the pulp of the tooth resided would be located.
  • We then use fine instruments called files to open and clean the space so that we can use solutions to disinfect the space.
  • Once we are happy that the inner parts of the tooth are cleaned and disinfected, the space is dried and then filled with an inert material. This is usually a material called gutta percha.
  • A filling is then placed over the top.
  • Teeth that have had a root canal treatment tend to be more brittle and therefore weaker, so your dentist would likely recommend a crown to protect and strengthen the remaining tooth structure.

Read more on our main root canal page.

Do Root Canals Hurt

With good local anaesthetic technique, the treatment should b e painless. However, when the tooth is already at its most painful, then sometimes it can be difficult to completely numb the tooth. We refer to this as the “hot pulp”.

There are ways to manage this also, and it is usually this part of the treatment that patients attribute “the pain of root canal treatment” to.

I’m really nervous. Can I be put to sleep?

We don’t put patients to sleep for routine dental treatment. We are, however, able to offer dental sedation which relaxes you, calms you down, and can make treatment a lot easier and more comfortable.

How long will treatment last?

The picture below is a reconstructed 3D image of a typical root canal system in a molar tooth.


You can appreciate the complexity of the internal anatomy of your tooth. This is why root canal treatment is one of the most difficult and time-consuming treatments in dentistry.

We cannot guarantee that every single aspect of that internal space is thoroughly cleaned and filled, as such, the treatment can at some stage in the future fail, which would require either the root canal treatment to be re-done or the tooth removed.

Please speak to your dentist about chances of success.

Sometimes, the treatment can be so complicated, we would advise the opinion of a specialist, or a dentist who solely works in root canal treatments.

What are the alternatives?

The alternatives to treatment would either be to either

  • Leave the tooth and no treatment. This is not recommended, as said earlier, this would allow infection to develop, resulting in a dental abscess.
  • Extraction and replace. But you have then lost your natural tooth

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the practice on 01562 822653.

Root Canals