What Happens In A Root Canal Treatment?

If you read our blog last week you’ll have seen us talk about the myths and facts surrounding root canal treatments. This week’s blog goes one step further, as we tell you what you can expect during a root canal procedure. If it sounds nerve-wracking, don’t worry – we’re with you every step of the way!

A root canal treatment can be separated into three main parts:

  1. The initial X-ray and anaesthesia
  2. The pulpectomy itself
  3. Filling in the pulp chamber

So, now you’re familiar with those main steps, it’s time to get down to the detail!

X-Ray and Anaesthesia

anasthesia needles

Before they do anything else, your dental expert will take an X-ray of your mouth, so they can see exactly what they’re working with. They’ll look at the shape of your root canals, and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone which could complicate the procedure. This initial stage also helps them to build up the clearest picture of the state of your root canal, and assess the extent of the damage or decay.

Then your dentist will use local anaesthetic to numb that area of your mouth. (Local anaesthetic means it only affects a specific part of your body – this is opposed to general anaesthetic, which puts you entirely to sleep while the procedure is carried out. This is very rarely used, if ever, for root canal treatments.) On occasions where the living tissue in your tooth has died entirely, it won’t be sensitive at all, so it might not be necessary to use local. You can count on your dentist to always carry out a thorough check first though!


root canal diagram

Once you have been successfully anaesthetised, your dentist will begin proceedings to remove the pulp of your tooth (the diseased bit, in other words). Before they start, they’ll place a rubber sheet around your tooth to make sure it’s dry during the root canal treatment. It also means that you’re not swallowing or breathing in any chemicals that you won’t want to be, either.

Then, your dentist will carefully open the crown (the top) of your tooth, and remove the infected pulp through this opening. If you have a dental abscess – a nasty pus-filled swelling that can be the result of infection – your dentist will take the opportunity to deal with it by draining it.

Filling In The Pulp Chamber

man having root canal treatment

When the diseased tissue has been completely removed, your dentist will clean your root canal. Your root canals are very narrow, so they’ll also enlarge it in the process, to ensure that it can be thoroughly cleaned and filled. This part of the treatment can often take a few hours, because different teeth have different root canals. Your canine teeth for example – your biting ones – have a single root canal, while your back molars – your chewing ones – have two or three. Obviously the length of your treatment may vary, depending on how many root canals are being dealt with!

(Filling in your pulp chambers might even take more than one session. If this is the case, your dentist will use a temporary filling and send you away with temporary medication until you can come back for the job to be finished.) Finally, a permanent filling will be inserted.

That’s all there is to it! It’s not a lightning-quick procedure, but it’s a relatively simple one to save the tooth and clear the infection. The presence of absence of a nerve doesn’t ultimately make much difference to the actual function of your teeth, so your chewing, biting and talking will be unaffected.

Here at AP Smilecare, we’re dedicated to preserving your dental health, which we do with in-depth expertise and our range of core treatments. You can click here to see them, or alternatively pay us a visit at our dental clinic in Blackburn to book an appointment.

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