Endodontic (Root Canal) Treatment

If your tooth’s nerve chamber becomes infected by decay, or damaged by injury, root canal treatment is often the only way to save your tooth.

What is a Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment is the removal of infected or inflamed pulp from the inside of the tooth. The pulp is removed from the crown and the roots of the tooth. Deep cavities or other injuries can cause damage to, or infection of, the tooth pulp. In a root canal, the dentist removes the damaged or infected pulp and replaces it with a special filler which helps protect the rest of the tooth. This filler will probably last a lifetime, but you may need a new filling or a crown on the tooth. Without root canal treatment, the gum and bone around the tooth may become infected and a painful abscess may form.

Quick facts about root canal treatment

You may need root canal treatment if you have:
  • Pain or throbbing while biting
  • Pain when eating/drinking hot or cold beverages/foods
  • Deep cavity or injury that causes an infection in the bone
  • Colour change/darkening of the tooth
  • Swelling and/or pus discharge in nearby gums
Inside the enamel (hard outer shell of the tooth) there is a secondary protection layer called dentine. Inside the dentine is a specific area called the pulp or nerve chamber. The pulp chamber contains blood vessels and nerves to provide nutrients for the tooth.

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What are the risks and complications of a root canal treatment?

In most cases, root canal treatment is successful and the tooth will no longer cause pain. However, there is always some risk depending on the condition of the tooth, the complexity of the root canals and your response to treatment. If this treatment fails, the tooth may require further treatment or extraction if it is unable to be saved.


Pain: mild, temporary pain following root canal treatment may occur due to inflammation of the tissues surrounding the tooth; however, severe or persistent pain may require more treatment.


Infection: in most cases, treatment will completely resolve infection around a tooth; however, there is some risk of an infection reoccurring. Further treatment will be required.


Discolouration: a tooth may become darker following root canal treatment. There are procedures available which may lighten the tooth if this occurs.

File Fracture

File fracture: the fine metal files used to clean inside the root canals may break during use. Further treatment may be required.

Tooth Fracture

Tooth fracture: root canal treatment may reduce the strength and durability of a tooth, making it more likely to fracture. Some fractures may require the tooth to be extracted. This risk is reduced by placing a strong filling or crown.


Perforation: depending on the size and shape of the roots, there is some risk of creating a hole in the side of a tooth root during the cleaning process. Further treatment may be needed.