Endodontics – when would I need a root canal? 

Root canals are one of the most common procedures, necessary when a tooth has become infected. Infections can occur when you have a decaying tooth, leaky fillings or have sustained damage to the tooth as a result of trauma. 


A little bit about tooth structure…

To understand how a root canal works, it’s worth knowing a bit about how a tooth is structured. The 2 main parts of the tooth are:

Crown – this is the top and visible part of a tooth.

Root – the root extends down into the bone of your jaw and anchors the tooth in position.


The other principal parts of the tooth are:

  • Enamel – protective outer coating of the tooth that prevents corrosion.
  • Dentine – softer material supporting the tooth enamel (this forms most of the tooth).
  • Cementum – solid material coating the surface of the root.
  • Dental pulp – soft tissue at the centre of the tooth.

Here is a diagram to help you….

A single tooth can contain more than one root canal.

A diagnosis of infection is shown with an X-ray, which will identify that the pulp is damaged due to a bacterial infection. If the tooth is infected by bacteria, the pulp will begin to die and bacteria will spread. Symptoms of a pulp infection include:

  • Pain when eating hot and cold food and drink.
  • Pain when biting and chewing.
  • Feeling a loose tooth.

Later symptoms include

  • Pus oozing from the infected tooth.
  • Darkening of the infected tooth.
  • Swelling of the gum near the infected tooth.

The importance of check-ups…

The beginnings of an infected tooth may not always be obvious to you, so regular check-ups are paramount to prevention. If you feel you may be displaying any of the symptoms above, you should visit us as soon as possible, as leaving the infected toot untreated will make it more difficult to salvage the tooth.


What is involved in the procedure?

The bacteria must be removed to treat the infection, which can be achieved through one of two ways: removing the bacteria from the root canal system or removing the tooth, though the latter is as as last resort – your dentist will always try to salvage the tooth is possible.

Once the harmful bacteria has been removed, the root canal needs to be filled and the tooth sealed with a filling or crown. This will be done using local anaesthetic, rendering the treatment painless. In 90% of cases, the tooth can survive for up to 10 years if correctly maintained.


If you would like more information about the variety of treatments at Cliftonville, please do not hesitate to contact us.



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