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Root canal treatment is performed to repair the damaged area inside the tooth. Also called endodontic treatment.

It involves drilling a hole in the tooth and removing the soft center known as the pulp. The pulp consists of connective tissue, nerves and blood supply and extends to the roots of the tooth. After the pulp is removed, the cavity is filled and sealed.

If necessary, the crown or surface of the tooth used for chewing can also be changed. Root canal treatment can be done by your regular dentist or a specialist endodontist.


Root canal treatment can save a badly infected or damaged tooth. The tooth may be infected or damaged by cavities, repeated dental work, wear and tear, gum disease, cracked fillings, or injury to the tooth.

When the pulp is damaged bacteria can begin to multiply inside the tooth. This can lead to an infection or abscess which is a pocket of pus that forms at the tip of the root in tooth.

It is important to save your own tooth if possible. It works better than an artificial tooth for biting and chewing. Losing teeth can lead to other problems in the mouth. Replacing a lost tooth with an artificial tooth often requires more complex dental procedures. Root canal treatment is often the best way to save a tooth.


Sometimes there is no indication that a tooth needs root canal treatment. More commonly, signs include:


First, the dentist takes an X-ray of the tooth to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there is any infection in the bone around the tooth.

A layer of rubber, called a rubber dam, is placed over the tooth to prevent contamination. You will be able to breathe normally.

The dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth before making a hole in the tooth to remove the pulp. Each tooth has between 1 and 4 canals, depending on the tooth. All channels will be cleaned, shaped and disinfected.

It may take several appointments for the dentist to clean and shape the hole in the tooth before placing a sterile filling in it. Between treatments, they cover the tooth with a temporary filling and may place a metal band around the tooth to protect it.

When the treatment is finished, they fill the canal cavity with a substance called gutta-percha. They may also place a small brace in the root canals to strengthen the tooth. If necessary, they can cover the tooth with an artificial crown.

Root canal treatment can be more irritating than a regular filling because it takes longer but is usually no more painful.

  • severe toothache when biting or chewing
  • sensitivity to heat or cold that persists after the heat or cold has been removed
  • darkening of the tooth
  • swollen and sensitive gums
  • pus around an infected tooth
  • face or neck swelling
  • a loose tooth

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