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Root canal treatment is a procedure which is carried out to either prevent or treat a dental infection. The procedure involves cleaning out the nerve space using specialized instruments and disinfecting solutions, which can then allow the space to be filled by a plastic root filling (gutta percha). The treatment is carried out under rubber dam isolation and only single-use sterile instruments are used.

Root canal treatment usually requires 1 to 3 appointments depending on degree of infection/inflammation and degree of treatment difficulty. Click here to read our patient information leaflet on root canals.

The purpose of this treatment is to treat and possibly maintain a diseased tooth and/or tissues in your mouth that would have been otherwise extracted or lost.

You may need a root canal if you have:

  • Pain or throbbing while biting
  • A deep cavity that can cause an infection
  • Pain when eating or drinking hot/cold food
  • Injury to the tooth that causes an infection
  • Swelling or pus draining from the gum nearby
  • Colour change in a tooth

What is root canal treatment


You may need root canal treatment if you have:

  • Pain or throbbing while biting
  • Pain when eating/drinking hot or cold beverages/foods
  • Deep cavity or injury that causes an infection in the bone
  • Colour change/darkening of the tooth
  • Swelling or/and pus discharge in nearby gum



  • Brush and floss your teeth twice a day.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Visit your dentist regularly to have your teeth checked.
  • Have cavities fixed early so that infection cannot reach the nerve of the tooth.
  • If playing a contact sport, ask your dentist about wearing a mouth guard.
  • If your mouth and/or teeth are hurt, have them checked by a dentist as soon as possible.

Be sure to follow the special home care instructions provided by your dental professional


There are alternatives to root canal treatment. They include, but may not be limited to:

  1. No treatment at all. Your present oral condition will probably worsen with time, and the risks to health may include, but are not limited to: pain, swelling, infection, cyst formation, loss of supporting bone around teeth, and premature loss of teeth.
  1. Extraction with nothing to fill the space. This may result in shifting of teeth, change in bite, periodontal disease.
  2. Extraction followed by a bridge, partial denture, or implant to fill the space.
  3. Retreatment (of previous unsuccessful endodontic therapy) may also be an option.


The following conditions, side-effects and complications have been known to be associated with or follow root canal treatment and anaesthesia but are not limited to:

  1. Postoperative discomfort or sensitivity lasting a few hours to several days, which may last longer and radiate to other areas, with intensity from slight to extreme. Most commonly the tooth is temporarily sensitive to biting following each appointment along with mild to moderate localized discomfort in the area. Sometimes healing is delayed.
  2. Postoperative swelling, infection in the vicinity of the treated tooth, facial swelling, and/or discoloration of tissues which may persist for several days or longer. Occasionally a small incision to drain the swelling is required.
  3. Restrictive mouth opening (trismus), jaw muscle spasm, jaw muscle cramps, temporomandibular joint difficulty, or change in bite, which occurs infrequently and usually lasts for several days but may last longer.
  4. Failure rate of 5-10% under optimal conditions. If failure occurs, additional treatment will be required such as: retreatment, endodontic surgery or extraction of the affected tooth. Retreatment (of previous unsuccessful endodontic therapy) failure rates are higher, but vary due to suspected reason for failure.
  5. Restoration Damage such as Porcelain Fracture while preparing an opening in the restoration or removing restoration for access to the root canals. If damage occurs or another problem found such as a cavity, many can be "patched" while others may require replacement of the restoration. Rarely, a restoration may be loosened.
  1. With some teeth, conventional endodontic (root canal) therapy alone may not be sufficient and additional treatment may be required. Examples are:
    1. Significant overfills or underfills of the filling materials.
    2. If the canal(s) are severely bent, calcified/blocked, split or other condition which prevents complete treatment
    3. If an endodontic instrument separates (breaks) in the tooth during treatment.
    4. Periodontal (gum) disease or problem in which periodontal treatment may be needed.
    5. Pre-existing fractures/cracks, Substantial infection in the bone, or perforation of the root, tooth or sinus.
    In some cases, follow-up visits may be recommended while in others an endodontic surgical procedure, extraction, or other treatment may be required to resolve the problem. Your dentist will explain the options available.
  2. Premature tooth loss due to progressive periodontal (gum) disease and/or loosening of the tooth.
  3. Complications resulting from use of instruments, materials, medications, anaesthetic, and injections, including altered sensation (tingling or numbness) of the tongue, lip, chin, cheek, gums, which is very rare and usually temporary, but may be permanent.

The above-mentioned conditions, side-effects and complications occur in frequencies that range from common, as in the case of pain and swelling, to occasional, as in the case of infection and bruising, to extremely rare, as in the case of injury to nearby teeth and most others. If any of these conditions, side-effects and complications, or others arise, there may be additional treatment necessary and additional expenses.

After endodontic therapy, the tooth will require an additional restoration (filling, onlay, crown, or bridge). Should you neglect to return to your dentist for the proper restoration there is an increased risk of 1) failure of the endodontic therapy, 2) fracture of tooth and/or, 3) premature loss of tooth.
Root treated teeth can still decay. As with other teeth, the proper care of these teeth consists of good home care, sensible diet, and periodic check-ups.

No guarantee of success or perfect result can been given to. The proposed treatment may not be curative and/or successful to your complete satisfaction. Failure may result despite treatment and may require additional treatment and/or extraction of the tooth.

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