Root canal treatment (also known as endodontic treatment) is a dental procedure used to treat infection at the centre of a tooth. Such infection is caused by bacteria that already live in the mouth and have been able to invade the tooth because of decay (or previously treated decay and subsequent deep fillings), leaky fillings, or from trauma.
If a tooth is infected there are two options available; remove the tooth completely or to undergo a root canal and try and save the tooth. The procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic, so it should feel similar to a filling. The inside of the infected tooth is cleaned and disinfected using special dental instruments. Once cleaned, the root canal system is then filled.
Root canal treatment is a highly skilled procedure that takes time to complete. It has an 80% success rate depending on the level of complexity and anatomy of the root canal system of the tooth. After the treatment has been carried out, the tooth can be more fragile. Evidence shows that placing a crown on top of a tooth that has had root canal treatment will protect the tooth from future fracture and also increase the success rate of root canal treatment (particularly if it a back tooth). It is especially important to take care of the tooth after treatment by regular maintenance to help ensure the continued success of the root canal and crown treatment.