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Have you ever heard of root canal therapy? If you have a damaged or infected tooth, this could be a procedure your dentist recommends. But what exactly is a root canal, and what does the treatment involve?

The basics of root canal therapy (RCT)

  • In the centre of each of our teeth and their roots is a soft tissue called the pulp. This tissue contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that makes the tooth "alive".

  • If the pulp becomes damaged, due to injury, decay, or infection, it can lead to a painful and serious dental issue.

  • RCT removes the damaged or infected pulp and replaces it with a rubber filling call gutta percha. The entire hard structure of the tooth, including the roots, remains in the gum.

  • RCT helps to save the tooth, rather than having to extract it. Root filled teeth become quite brittle, so a dental crown is often needed to sit on top of the tooth to allow you to chew normally without the risk of breakage.

  • The procedure can be performed by a general dentist, or is sometimes performed by an endodontist, a dentist who specialises in root canal treatment.

The benefits of root canal therapy

  • Pain relief: If you have a damaged or infected tooth, it can be incredibly painful. By removing the damaged tissue, root canal therapy can bring relief from this pain.

  • Saving your tooth: When a tooth becomes damaged or infected, the only option used to be extraction. With root canal therapy, it is possible to save the tooth and prevent the need for an extraction.

  • Protecting your other teeth: When a tooth is extracted, it can cause your other teeth to shift, leading to a misaligned bite and further dental issues. By saving the damaged tooth with root canal therapy, you are protecting your other teeth from these additional problems.

  • Preventing future infections: If you have an infected tooth, the infection can spread to other parts of your body, leading to further health issues. By having root canal therapy, you are preventing the spread of this infection and maintaining good oral and overall health.

Does root canal therapy hurt?

Many people shudder at the thought of root canal treatment. However, pain-free dentistry should be the norm and not the exception. Root canal treatment carried out carefully and methodically can be a pain-free procedure and has a high success rate of over 90%. It should be no more uncomfortable than having a regular filling, though it does take longer. People often think of pain when they hear about root canal treatment as they remember the immense pain from the infection preceding the operation, not from the operation itself.

Does root canal therapy last a lifetime?

Like all procedures in dentistry, nothing lasts forever. The lifespan of your root canal treatment is dependant on the severity of the infection, as well as the quality of the tooth remaining. A dental crown will help improve the longevity of the treatment.


Root canal therapy is a common and effective procedure for saving damaged or infected teeth. It provides pain relief, helps to protect your other teeth, and prevents future infections. If you think you might need a root canal, talk to your dentist about the procedure and its benefits. They will be able to guide you through the process and whether it is the right choice for you.


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