When the nerve or blood supply of a tooth has been infected through decay or injury then root canal treatment is required to save the tooth.

The nerve supply of a tooth is called the pulp, and if this becomes infected then the infection can spread through the tooth via the root canal system and may cause an abscess. If the abscess is left untreated and the root canal treatment is not carried out then the tooth may need to be taken out.

The treatment can take from one to two or more appointments. Firstly the infected pulp is removed and if an abscess is present this can be drained at the same time. The root canal is then cleaned and shaped ready to be filled. At this stage a temporary filling may be placed and you would be asked to come back for another appointment. The second stage is to permanently fill the tooth so no further infection can get into the root. With the pulp removed the tooth becomes a 'dead tooth' which means in time it can discolour and become brittle. To prevent this from happening and to protect the root filling inside a crown is sometimes placed. This treatment is usually very successful with no reoccurrence of infection. Rarely the infection can come back and in some circumstances the procedure can be repeated.

The dentist will recommend root treatment first before extraction as it is best to keep as many natural teeth in the mouth as possible. People can be put off by root treatment but a local anaesthetic is used and should feel no different to having an ordinary filling done. A root treated tooth should be treated the same as any other tooth and be cleaned at least once a day.

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