Inside your tooth is a canal consisting of blood vessels, lymph vessels and nerves, called the pulp. Deep tooth decay or injury can cause damage and infection to the nerves and vessels and cause them to swell up. Since they are encapsulated inside the tooth and there is no space for them to swell up, pressure and pain will result. This pain is unlike any other pain and can be very unpleasant.

Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic treatment, cleans out the infected nerve and pulp and replaces it with an inert silicone like filling.

Some indications of the need for root canal treatment may be

  • Spontaneous pain or throbbing
  • Pain while biting or chewing
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold

Severe decay or injury can cause an abscess in the bone surrounding the tooth. The inflammation at this point is irreversible and the tooth will not heal by itself. Without treatment, infection will spread and the bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate. Pain usually worsens until one is forced to seek emergency dental attention. The only alternative is usually to extract the tooth, which will cause the surrounding teeth to shift, resulting in a bad bite.  Although an extraction is cheaper, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which can be more expensive than root canal therapy. If you have the choice, it's always best to keep your original tooth.

More than 70 percent of root canal treatments are successful. Local anaesthesia is used, so the entire procedure should be relatively pain free!

Pain typically is recurrent and people have a tendency to ignore it. When the pain returns, it usually is very painful and throbbing and wakes you up at night. This means that not only cold, hot drinks, or chewing food causes pain, but that it constantly hurts. Antibiotics do help but should not be used routinely and left only for serious situations. In such a case, a small hole on the chewing surface of the tooth is made to release the pressure. The canal may be left open if pus is present or closed with a cotton pellet and temporary cement. The treatment is then completed a few days later. If the tooth is not infected, it is often possible to complete the root canal treatment in one visit.

A rubber dam should always be placed during a root canal procedure to isolate the tooth from harmful bacteria entering the canal during the procedure.

Crowning (capping) these root canal treated teeth is often indicated.