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root canal treatment

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Irsh Dental Association & Irish Endodontic Society leaflet on Root Canal Treatment Edited Edition

Read or download here


Why do I need a root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment (root canal filling) is needed when the pulp, commonly called “the nerve” is either inflamed, dead or infected, or is at risk of becoming so in the future. The pulp extends along small channels which are situated in the centre of the root(s) of teeth (“the root canals”). The reason for the pulp being damaged maybe any of the following: • Dental or “tooth” decay (fig. A)

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Large or deep filling • Leakage under an old crown or filling • Trauma (from a fall, accident or sports injury) • Cracks or fracture in the teeth Where a damaged or dead pulp is not removed, it will often become infected and may result in a dental abscess. Root treatment may not be as successful when there is long standing or severe infection such as a dental abscess. A successful root canal treatment may extend the functional life of a badly damaged tooth when very often the only real alternative is extraction of the tooth.


The treatment is carried out under local anaesthetic, just like a filling, and is generally painless. The objective is to remove the pulp tissue and any infection from the root canals in the centre of the tooth. These canals are then filled with a combination of a rubber-like material called ‘gutta-percha’ and a sealer cement to provide a good root filling and prevent bacterial infection. During the procedure the dentist uses fine metal instruments (files) along with a disinfectant material to clean out the root canals. (fig.B) Once the root canal is cleaned and the root filling completed, the tooth must then be restored to complete the seal from oral bacteria.

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how long will it take?

This depends on a number of factors including, which tooth is being treated and whether or not infection is present. An upper front tooth has only one canal, whereas a molar or back tooth has three or four canals of more complex shape and size. An infected tooth will possibly require more than one visit for adequate cleaning and disinfection. Where the treatment is carried out over several visits, a temporary filling is placed as a seal between visits.

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Will it be painful after a visit?

Some discomfort and tenderness is possible for the following few days, especially if there was pain before the treatment commenced. This can be managed with mild painkillers of your choice such as those you might use for a headache. Any persistent or severe symptoms should be reported to your dentist.

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