If the root canal filling within one of your teeth is infected, you may experience severe, unbearable tooth pain. You will have two options if this applies. If you want to save the tooth the existing root canal filling will need to be removed followed by thorough irrigation of the root to kill existing bacteria and lastly a new root filling placed. However if you do not wish to save the tooth, a tooth extraction may be done to remove the tooth which is the source of the infection.
Advice: Adult teeth only come once. We strongly recommend saving teeth using root canal therapy unless you plan to have a dental implant placed in the future. Removing a tooth will have consequences which the dentist will explain to you.
Root Canal FAQs
What is a root canal?
Root canals are the small spaces inside the tooth that lead from the pulp chamber to the roots of the tooth (apices). They contain the nerves and blood vessels that help supply the tooth keeping it healthy and alive. The incisors, canines and premolars predominantly have one root canal but can sometimes have 2 root canals. The molars usually have 3 canals but can have up to 4 or 5 canals each.
Why is treatment for root canals needed?
If a tooth becomes infected, the pulp of the tooth can become irritated. Constant irritation can lead to pulp death which can be very painful and cause severe toothache, tenderness and swelling around the tooth. This irritation usually occurs due to deep tooth decay, trauma or severe gum infection.
Root canal treatment involves removing the affected nerves and blood vessels from the pulp and root canal systems as well as any infection that may be present. The root canals are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and a filling is placed from the bottom of the root up to the top of the tooth, effectively sealing off the tooth so that infection can no longer occur in the tooth.
Antibiotics alone will not help remove infection at the apex of a tooth. It may help with the symptoms in the short-term, but it won’t remove the infection and the problem is likely to occur again in the future. It takes the physical removal of the infection via a root canal treatment to clear it away.
How successful is root canal treatment?
The treatment is usually successful. The aim is to fill the tooth as far down as possible. Sometimes, when the root anatomy is quite complex, the procedure can be more difficult and a specialist endodontist may be needed to help achieve a successful outcome.
Once the root canal treatment has been completed, one can imagine the tooth is now weaker as it no longer has the nerves and blood vessels inside it, continually keeping it alive and healthy. In most cases the tooth will need reinforcement in the form of a crown or onlay on top of it to ensure that the tooth does not break and require extraction.
It is very important to maintain good oral hygiene after root canal treatment has been carried out and important to see your dentist regularly, to ensure no further problems occur around the tooth which has had the root canal filling.
Is root canal treatment painful?
The treatment itself is carried out under local anaesthetic so you should not feel any pain during the procedure. If the tooth is severely infected in the first place, anaesthetic may need to be given directly into the nerves of the tooth to help reduce any sensation you might feel during the procedure. It is common for the tooth to be tender for a few weeks after the procedure as it settles down and gets used to not having a nerve inside it.
What is the average cost of root canal treatment?
The cost of root canal treatment varies. For more complicated root canal treatments or to get the best results possible, ideally a specialist endodontist who is highly experienced and skilled in carrying out root canal treatments, should be seen. The price can vary from anything between £500-£1200 or $750-2500 for a specialist root canal treatment per tooth.
How do I prevent root canal infection?
Good oral hygiene is the first step to preventing any oral infection. This will limit the chances of you getting tooth decay that could potentially reach the nerve and hence require root canal treatment. You should also visit the dentist regularly so that if there is any tooth decay or gum infection, it can be caught early and treatment can be carried out to prevent the need for future root canal treatment.
Are there alternatives to endodontic root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment is the best way to try and save a tooth to prevent having a tooth extraction. If you would prefer not to go through the process (which can take a few visits to finish), then the quick solution would be to have the tooth taken out. However, the gap would need to be restored and you would need to discuss the options of dental implants, dental bridges, or dentures to replace the tooth and maintain a healthy bite.