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What happens during a root canal treatment?

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No matter how well you care for your teeth, they can become damaged. If you have a tooth that has been injured in an accident or damaged by an infection, you may need a root canal treatment to save the tooth from extraction. If you have been advised to have a root canal, read on to learn the steps your dentist will take.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a dental treatment that removes the infected tissue from the centre of a tooth, making it strong again. Without a root canal treatment, a seriously infected tooth might need to be removed to stop the infection from spreading to the other teeth and the jaw bone.

Why do you need a root canal?

Root canal treatment becomes necessary when a tooth is significantly damaged or infected. The common causes of serious tooth damage include:

  • A large cavity, which has become seriously infected.
  • A crack in the surface of the tooth, allowing harmful bacteria to infiltrate the tooth.
  • Injury to the tooth, for example from a car or sporting accident.

What happens during root canal treatment?

Your dentist will conduct your root canal treatment in several steps, sometimes taking two or more sessions to complete the entire procedure. The steps your dentist will follow during your treatment are:

  • Assessment: Your dentist may need to x-ray your tooth to understand the extent of the damage to the tooth and the bone surrounding it.
  • Anaesthesia: You'll be provided with an anaesthetic to make sure you don't feel pain during the procedure.
  • Opening: Your dentist will drill a hole in the top of your tooth.
  • Pulp extraction: This involves removing all of the infected tissue from deep inside your tooth and its root.
  • Cleaning and shaping: Often over several visits, your dentist will shape the hole created inside your tooth and make sure the inside of your tooth is completely free of bacteria.
  • Filling: A sterile filling, called gutta percha, will be packed inside your tooth.
  • Sealing: The top of your tooth will be sealed with cement to stop bacteria from invading the space in future.
  • Crowning: If necessary, your dentist will place a crown on top of your tooth, to create a strong surface that supports chewing.

While many people fear having a root canal, the small amount of discomfort that you might experience during the procedure will allow you to save your tooth, and your smile.