If decay or caries has extended into the pulp of the tooth (the nerve area), the canals will become infected and the tooth will start to die off. This will normally be associated with severe toothache or swelling.

Root canal treatment

At this stage, you will be given 2 options: either to extract the tooth, or to try to save the tooth by root canal treatment. This will depend on the accessibility to the tooth and its restorability.

There are 2 aims of a RCT:

  • To clean the canals of any debri, blood, bacteria and infection
  • To seal the canals to prevent further ingress of bacteria

It is very important that the root canal filling material is filled to the entire length of the canal. You may notice the dentist taking some measurements from the x-rays.

x-ray of root canal treated tooth

Some teeth have more than one canal, and so, sometimes treatment can take longer than others. The front teeth normally have 1 or 2 canals, but the molars can have up to 4 canals.

After the root canal treatment, you may be given the option of placing a crown over the tooth. This will help strengthen the tooth, as most root canalled teeth are weak structurally.

Root canal treatment is about 95-98% successful, depending on the position and condition of the tooth. However, if it fails, re-root filling the tooth may have a lower success rate and you may decide on taking the tooth out then.