What is a root canal?

A root canal (non-surgical root canal therapy) is a common procedure in which the tooth is de-vitalized, meaning that the nerve and blood supply (the pulp) is removed and disinfected, and the space left is re-filled with an inert filling material to seal out bacteria.

What causes a tooth to need a root canal?

A root canal is a necessary procedure to save the tooth when the nerve has become affected, causing irreversible damage or even killing it. By far, the most common way that a tooth's nerve is affected in this way is from a cavity (dental decay) reaching the nerve allowing it to be infected by bacteria. Other ways that the nerve can be affected are through trauma which disrupts the blood supply to that tooth causing the nerve to die, fracture into (or close to) the nerve, cracks that extend into the nerve, and repeated dental procedures. The commomn signs and symptoms that alert dentists and patients to the need for a root canal are constant or un-elicited pain, extreme sensitivity to hot or cold, pain to tapping on the tooth, or x-ray evidence of an infection.

What should I expect at my root canal appointment?


We will numb the tooth with a local anesthetic, and during the procedure we do not expect any discomfort. It should feel very similar to a simple filling or crown appointment, but is just takes a little longer to complete. You will not be sedated, and you can drive yourself to and from your  appointment.


What is the prognosis of a tooth with a root canal?


Across the dental profession, we have an approximately 90% success rate for the root canal procedures leading to a significantly exteded life of a tooth. Generally, we will recomend that a tooth that has had a root canal also have a full coverage crown to give the best prognosis. The reason that the crown is necessary is that teeth having had root canal therapy may be somewhat weaker and are more prone to fracture. Sometimes, when a crown is not placed, fractures can occur and render a tooth unrestorable  and require extraction. Only on rare occasions will a tooth that has had a root canal become re-infected and require further treatment or extraction.