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Root canal treatment is a common dental procedure that is necessary to prevent the need for an infected tooth to be removed, and to prevent the formation of painful abscesses.

The nerve or pulp at the centre of the tooth can become infected through decay or injury and this infection can spread through the tooth’s root canal system, leading to an abscess and even, in some cases, loss of the tooth. Root canal treatment removes the pulp and nerve from the tooth, cleans and fills the root canal space. One of the signs of infection is the tooth changing colour because the nerve has died. Root canal treatment will restore the tooth and the only difference will be that the tooth cannot feel hot or coldfood and drinks touching it.

How does root canal treatment work?

Your dentist will carry out root canal treatment in a caring, gentle way. The treatment should not hurt as you will have a local anaesthetic, making it feel no different to getting a filling.

First the dentist will take an xray to establish the shape of your root canal and check there is no spread of infection to surrounding bones. Next your tooth will be numbed with local anaesthetic, and a rubber dam will be placed in your mouth to isolate the tooth. The dentist will then drill a small access hole in the centre of the tooth to get to the root canal. The infected pulp is removed using very small files and the root canal is cleaned and widened.

After the root canal is thoroughly cleaned, it is sealed using gutta percha, a rubber-like material, and a filling is used to seal the opening in the tooth. Sometimes the tooth will need to be further strengthened with a crown.

How many appointments will I need?

You may need 2-3 treatments for the root canal treatment to be complete. Also, if there is an infection in the tooth the dentist may place medication in it and leave it for a week to ensure the infection has cleared. If you need more than one appointment, a temporary filling will be used to keep out further contamination.

What can I expect after treatment?

The tooth may be a little sensitive for a few days after root canal treatment. Your dentist will advise you on the best over-the-counter painkillers to use and whether you need further treatment, such as a crown.

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