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Root Canal Treatment: Everything you need to know

Bacteria can enter the pulp of a tooth which causes an infection. To save the tooth from infection, root canal therapy is necessary. In this procedure, the infected pulp is removed and the tooth is sealed to prevent reinfection. So what exactly is a root canal?

What is Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment is a dental procedure that involves the removal of an infected or abscessed tooth that is causing pain. After removal, the surfaces inside the tooth are then cleaned and disinfected. A filling is then placed to seal the space to avoid reinfection.

Why is root canal treatment needed?

If the pulp becomes infected, the infection might spread through the root canal system of the tooth. This can then lead to an abscess. An abscess is an inflamed area in which pus collects. This causes swelling of the tissues around the tooth. The symptoms of an abscess include dull ache to severe pain, and the tooth may be tender when you bite. The infection if not treated through a root canal treatment will spread through the tooth which might require extraction of the tooth in the long run.

How is the root canal procedure done?

Depending on the condition of the tooth, the procedure can be done in one sitting or 2 to 3 sessions. Each sitting is of a 30 – 90 minute duration. The procedure is simple and isn’t painful or very uncomfortable.

  1. Local anesthesia is administered to the tooth that is to be treated.
  2. Once the tooth and the surrounding areas become numb, the endodontist drills an opening through the biting surface (the crown) of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. In the case of a front tooth, the endodontist drills an opening from behind the tooth.
  3. Using special files the endodontist cleans out the infected dead pulp from the canals. The procedure does not cause pain as the area is numb due to the anesthesia and the tissue being removed is dead.
  4. After removing all the infected and dead tissue, the canals are then disinfected.
  5. The canals are then shaped with fine instruments. During shaping, the irrigation method is used to wash and clean the canals and remove the debris. This is done before inserting the fillings. In the end, the tooth is sealed.
  6. A temporary cover material is placed above the gutta-percha to seal it. This covering material is kept in place till a crown or a cap is fitted on top of the treated tooth. This cap looks like a normal tooth.
    Occasionally, a post is inserted into the canal next to the gutta-percha to give the crown extra support.
  7. Afterwards, the crown is cemented in place so that it never dislodges


As with any procedure, the procedure can have complications.
Sometimes the dentist may find lesser root canals than the actual number. If even one canal remains untreated, the infection may spread into the bone.
It is the dentist’s responsibility to make sure the filling material goes far enough into the canal to fill it up completely. If the root canal is not properly sealed, the infection might return.
During the procedure, instruments can break in the canal or the root of the tooth cracks. This makes it hard to fill the tooth properly.
Even if complications occur, the specialist will try to correct the issue and complete the root canal. Complications can be avoided if patients follow the dentist’s instructions. For instance, if an antibiotic is prescribed it is important to complete its course. Finally, it is important to have a permanent restoration placed, such as a crown, once the root canal therapy is complete.
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