Root canal treatment (RCT) involves removing infected tissue from your tooth, cleaning the root canal and then filling it to prevent further damage or infection. Root canal treatment can save your tooth from having to be taken out.
In the centre of your tooth there is a canal containing blood vessels and nerves called pulp. Each tooth can have one or more root canals. Your front teeth often have just one root canal, whereas your back teeth may have three or more.
The pulp in your tooth can become infected with bacteria if your tooth becomes damaged.
This can happen in a number of ways. These include:
severe tooth decay
an injury, such as a blow to your mouth
cracked or loose fillings, or repeated fillings in your tooth
If the pulp in your tooth becomes infected this can spread to the root canal and your tooth may become painful. If the infection spreads further it can cause a tooth or dental abscess, which is a collection of pus. This can be painful and tender when you bite down on your tooth and can cause swelling around your tooth and jaw.
The aim of root canal treatment is to remove the damaged pulp and bacteria that is causing the infection. Your dentist will access the root canal and remove the pulp and infected tissue, then clean and fill the empty root canal and put a permanent seal over the top of your tooth.
Root canal treatment can often be done in one session, or you may need to have treatment over more than one session. How long your treatment takes will depend on how severe your dental problem is and the type of tooth in question. If your affected tooth is a molar with two or three root canals, the treatment may be more difficult and involve more sessions.