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What to expect from root canal treatment

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What to expect from root canal treatment

Root canals may sound like a scary procedure, but it is far from it.

In fact, the procedure is very common and many people have received this treatment. If you’re experiencing tooth pain, root canals can be the solution to repair and save your tooth.

Table of Contents

What is root canal treatment?

A root canal is a dental treatment that involves the removal of the inflamed pulp caused by tooth decay or a tooth infection.

During the endodontic treatment, the dentist will cut a hole in the crown of the tooth to access the pulp. The pulp comprises blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves that help the tooth stay healthy and grow.

After the pulp removal, the tooth is sealed to prevent the possibility of reinfection.

Although a root canal treatment may sound scary, this is a safe dental procedure that can help people save their natural teeth.

Ultimately, a root canal helps to preserve your oral health. The procedure is typically performed by an endodontist or general dentist.

When is a root canal needed?

Tooth pain is the most common indicator of requiring root canal therapy. The severity of the pain can vary from mild to severe.

Generally, a root canal is needed when a cavity is left untreated for a prolonged period. Here are some signs when a root canal may be necessary:

  • A severe toothache when applying pressure or chewing. The tooth pain can also radiate to other teeth or the jaw.
  • The infection may cause discolouration of the tooth in the pulp.
  • Having a cracked tooth can be caused by bacteria build-up and inflammation.
  • Recurring pimples on the gums. Additionally, pus from the infected tooth can drain from the pimple.
  • Experiencing prolonged sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures such as drinking a cold glass of water, eating ice cream, or drinking hot coffee. This is especially true if the pain lingers even after the food or drink has already been consumed.
  • A tooth infection can cause swollen gums. That’s because the pus can collect and build up in the area, leading to tender, puffy, or swollen gums.
  • A tooth that feels looser, potentially due to the infection.
    When these signs are present, it’s important to have the pulp removed. The bacteria can lead to an abscess or infection in the root canal of the tooth.

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What is the root canal procedure?

Before the dentist begins the procedure, your healthcare provider or local dentistry professional will take X-rays of the infected tooth. This allows the dentist to determine whether the root canal treatment is an appropriate option and the extent of the damage to the infected tooth.

Your dentist will usually recommend a root canal before other more drastic measures. A root canal saves the tooth, while other alternatives like an implant or denture require extraction.

Here are the steps of the root canal procedure and what you can expect.


Step 1: Anesthetic

Your dentist will administer a local anaesthetic to the root of the tooth and its surrounding areas. Sometimes, they may provide specific medications to help you relax, such as intravenous (IV) sedation, oral sedatives, or nitrous oxide.

Before beginning the procedure, your dentist will place a tiny rubber sheet over the area to isolate the infected tooth and keep it dry.

This prevents saliva from entering the dental pulp or infected tooth during the process. Additionally, it prevents the patient from swallowing small tooth pieces or liquids.


Step 2: Removing the pulp

The dentist or endodontist will use a dental drill to create a small hole in the crown to access the infected pulp and tooth. Depending on whether the tooth is single-rooted or a molar, the tooth has one or more canals. This is crucial because the dentist will need to identify these canals to access the pulp.

Once the infected pulp is identified, the dentist uses special tools to remove it. They will also remove some tissues, blood vessels, and nerves inside the tooth.

After the pulp tissue is removed, the root canal system and the pulp chamber are cleaned and disinfected.


Step 3: Antibiotics

Following the pulp removal and canal cleaning, the dentist will apply a coat of topical antibiotics to prevent reinfection. They will then fill the empty canal chambers using a rubbery and flexible material called gutta-percha.


Step 4: Adding a crown or filling

The dentist will put a temporary filling on the tooth to protect it from bacteria re-entering again. The root filling also prevents saliva from damaging the canals.

In many cases, your dentist will put a dental crown over the treated tooth to restore the bite and protect the tooth.

The temporary filling is worn until the permanent crowns come in. These crowns are custom-made and fabricated in a dental lab, which takes about two to three weeks. Once the crowns are ready, the temporary root filling will be taken off, and the permanent crown will be placed

After receiving the root canal procedure, you may experience some moderate sensitivity over the next few days. Your dentist may recommend using some over-the-counter pain relievers to help manage the slight discomfort.

It’s also recommended to stay away from chewing or biting using the treated teeth. Instead, try chewing using the other side of your mouth until permanent dental restoration is put in place.

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How painful is it?

If you’re anxious or worried about the pain that the root canal may cause, the procedure may not be as painful as you think. Your dentist will numb the tooth and its surrounding areas with local anaesthesia before performing the root canal procedures, which will minimise any discomfort or pain in your mouth during the procedure.

An infected or decayed tooth is a serious problem, and the fear of pain shouldn’t prevent you from getting the procedure. Many teeth treated by the root canal procedure will last a lifetime.

In fact, living with a decayed tooth is probably more painful than the procedure.

However, you can expect some mild pain in the area after the dental treatment. Typically, the slight discomfort may last a few days.

That’s because the treated tooth and its nerves are still sensitive. Your dentist will recommend over-the-counter pain medication to help you cope with the pain after the procedure.



The best way to prevent getting a root canal treatment is to practice excellent oral hygiene and maintain good oral health.
Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Brush your teeth twice per day while using fluoride toothpaste to keep your teeth clean. Make sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid abrasive toothpaste since it can wear down the tooth enamel. Brushing your teeth eliminates bacteria and prevents cavities from forming.
  • Clean your teeth thoroughly by flossing and using mouth wash daily.
    Visit the dentist for routine check-ups and teeth cleanings.
  • Refrain from overindulging in sugar. Bacteria love sugary foods and drinks and too much sugar can lead to tooth decay. Opt for healthier alternatives such as fresh vegetables and fruits over sugary snacks as often as possible.
  • Clean your tongue by giving it a gentle scrub. Most people forget to brush or clean their tongues as well. Bacteria live in your mouth and tend to cling onto your tongue and teeth. The longer it stays inside your mouth, the more likely plaque can form.
  • Drink more water to wash away harmful bacteria. A dry mouth helps to minimise bacteria staying inside of your mouth. Saliva is important to keep your teeth and mouth healthy. Keep a bottle of water on hand to help keep you hydrated and wash the bacteria off your teeth.


Root canal treatment costs

At Bespoke Smile, our experienced dentists can perform a simple and painless procedure to minimise your discomfort while maintaining the health of your teeth.

The cost of our root canal treatments starts from £395.
What’s included in the cost?

Root canal treatment is done under something known as a “rubber dam” where the tooth is protected from any contamination, increasing comfort during treatment and also chances of success of treatment.

Patients who want a strong, durable and natural-looking crown fitted following the procedure can expect prices beginning from £850.

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Written by Dr. Sam Jethwa
Written by Dr. Sam Jethwa

BDS (Lon) MFDS RCS (Edin) PgDip ClinEd (UK)
Areas of expertise: Smile makeovers using ultra-thin porcelain veneers, smile design to restore worn teeth and advanced full mouth restorative dentistry.

“A perfect, natural, or bespoke smile is possible to achieve for anyone. There is no substitute for the feeling of confidence an individual and beautiful smile can give. We have developed techniques, which we teach to dentists across the UK and abroad, to help them better their care in their clinics. I believe in comprehensively treating every patient, to bring them up to absolute health, and then put in place maintenance to avoid patients from recurrent replacements, and further treatment. It is a passion for me to deliver an unrivalled experience and end result, which stands the test of time”

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