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Before explaining how a root canal treatment is performed, you should understand the basic anatomy of the tooth.

How can a tooth survive without live roots?

Inside the tooth, under the visible white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. Pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, which helps to grow the root of the tooth during its development. When the tooth is fully developed it can survive without the pulp as the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues that surround it. Thus, a tooth is able to function normally without its pulp after a root canal treatment.

Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?

Endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches that are caused by pulp inflammation and infection. You are likely to feel more pain through the infection itself than during the root canal procedure. With advanced modern techniques and anaesthetics keeping the patient's safety, health and comfort in mind, most patients report they feel comfortable during the procedure. Following treatment, the treated tooth may feel sensitive. Follow your dentist's instructions carefully, and try to avoid chewing or biting on the tooth in the days following your treatment. The discomfort from the procedure can be relieved with over-the-counter or with prescription medications. The treated tooth may continue to feel different from unaffected teeth for a period of time after your endodontic treatment has been completed. However, if you are experiencing severe pain, pressure, or pain that lasts more than a few days, get in contact with your dentist.

How long do the restored teeth last after treatment?

If you maintain excellent oral hygiene after your root canal treatment, the treated tooth is able to last a lifetime. Excellent oral hygiene involves brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, lowering your sugar intake and drinking plenty of water, as well as having regular checkups and teeth cleans. However, to stay confident that the restored tooth remains healthy, you must schedule in regular checkups with your local dentist to ensure that the tissues in your mouth are nourishing the root of your treated tooth.

Will there be any cosmetic issues following the root canal treatment?

Normal teeth with healthy tooth pulp appear yellow or white in colour. In contrast, a pulp-free tooth (following a root canal treatment) may eventually turn grey. If this is a concern, ask your dentist about it – they can advise you on appropriate aesthetic (cosmetic dentistry) procedures.

What causes a treated tooth to require additional treatment?

Even after a root canal treatment, there exist circumstances in which you may require further work on your tooth. New trauma, deep decay, or a loose, cracked or broken filling can cause new infection or inflammation. In some cases, your dentist may discover additional narrow or curved canals that were not treated during the initial procedure.

Can all teeth be treated with a root canal?

Most teeth can be treated with a root canal procedure – however, not every procedure is guaranteed. Occasionally, a tooth cannot be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the root is severely fractured beyond repair, or the tooth doesn't have adequate bone support. However, with the latest advances in endodontics, it is possible to save teeth that would have otherwise been lost a decade ago. If endodontic treatment is not effective, endodontic surgery may be used to save the tooth.

Can my dentist do the work, or do I need to see an endodontic specialist?

Yes your dentist can perform root canal therapy. Your general dentist may refer you to a specialist endodontist if your condition is too severe or complicated to be treated in the dentist surgery.