• July 25, 2023
  • Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

The Diagnosis, Treatment and Side Effects of a Root Canal

So, what is a root canal treatment? Also known as endodontic treatment, a root canal is a specialised dental procedure used to treat diseases or injuries to the tooth pulp and the infections within a tooth’s root canal system. Read on to find out everything you need to know about root canal treatment, side effects and how to know if you need one.

What is a Root Canal Treatment?

It’s a dental procedure used to treat infection at the centre of your tooth, specifically in the dental pulp, which comprises blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. This treatment involves removing the infected pulp, cleaning and disinfecting the root canal, and then filling and sealing the canal to prevent further infection.

When is a Root Canal Treatment Necessary?

Treatment is necessary when the dental pulp inside your tooth becomes inflamed or infected, often due to tooth decay, a cracked tooth, or injury. If left untreated, the infection in the dental pulp can cause severe tooth pain or lead to an abscess.

Signs and Symptoms That May Require a Root Canal Treatment

When it comes to identifying the need for a root canal, several signs and symptoms can indicate an issue. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it may suggest that you require root canal treatment:

  • Severe tooth pain, especially when chewing or applying pressure
  • Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, even after the stimulus is removed
  • Discolouration or darkening of the tooth
  • Swelling and tenderness in the surrounding gums
  • An X-ray showing an infected root canal or inflammation at the root of the tooth
what is a root canal treatment

Root canal therapy can help you get back your smile by preserving the natural tooth structure, eliminating tooth pain and sensitivity, and restoring the appearance of the affected tooth.

The Diagnosis Process

Correctly diagnosing the need for a root canal is crucial in successful endodontic treatment. This typically involves a comprehensive dental examination and diagnostic tests.

Dental Examination and Assessment

We will conduct a thorough examination of the affected tooth and other teeth in your mouth. This examination includes a review of your dental and medical history, and an assessment of root canal symptoms you may be experiencing. Our goal with this assessment is to determine if you require root canal treatment.

Diagnostic Tests Used in Root Canal Treatment

To confirm the diagnosis, we may use several tests. These may include percussion testing (tapping on the tooth), temperature testing, and electric pulp testing. These tests assess the health of your dental pulp and the surrounding tissues, aiding us in making a final diagnosis.

Identifying the Need for a Root Canal through X-rays and Imaging

X-rays and advanced imaging techniques play a critical role in diagnosing the need for root canal treatments. An X-ray can show us the condition of your tooth and any signs of infection in the surrounding bone. Additionally, it provides us with a visual reference for the shape and number of your tooth’s root canals.

what is a root canal treatment

Special tools are used to clean and disinfect the root canals to remove all infection and debris.

The Treatment Procedure

Understanding the root canal procedure can alleviate concerns about the treatment. While often feared, most root canal procedures we perform are straightforward and relatively pain-free.

Brief Overview Treatment

The root canal process begins with us administering local anaesthesia to numb the area around your infected tooth. We then remove the infected pulp, clean and disinfect the root canal system, and fill the canals with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. A temporary filling is then placed until the final restoration, such as a crown, can be fitted to restore your tooth’s function and appearance.

Cleaning and Disinfecting the Infected Tooth

After anaesthesia, we create an opening in the top of your tooth to access the diseased tooth pulp. Using special tools, we clean and disinfect the root canals to remove all infection and debris. Care is taken to clean the entire root canal system, ensuring no infection remains.

Filling and Sealing the Root Canal

Once the root canals are cleaned and disinfected, they are filled with a rubber-like material known as gutta-percha. This substance seals the root canals to prevent bacteria from entering. Typically, a temporary filling is placed to seal the opening in your tooth until the final restoration can be completed.

Restoring the Tooth’s Function and Appearance

After treatment, the tooth is restored with a crown or a filling to ensure it can function like a natural tooth. This final step in the root canal procedure protects your tooth, giving it a natural appearance and allowing it to function normally in chewing and speaking.

what is a root canal treatment

Rediscover your winning smile with root canal treatment at The Dentist at 70 Pitt Street.

Potential Side Effects and Complications

While root canal treatment is a routine dental procedure with high success rates, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects and complications that may arise post-treatment.

Common Side Effects after a Root Canal Treatment

Root canal patients may experience some common side effects after the treatment, such as tooth sensitivity or mild discomfort, which usually subsides within a few days. It’s also normal to feel a strange sensation in your mouth until you get used to the newly treated tooth.

Managing Discomfort and Pain

After the procedure, it’s normal for your tooth to feel sensitive or uncomfortable for a few days. Over-the-counter pain relievers are usually sufficient to manage this discomfort. However, if the pain persists or worsens, you should contact us.

Possible Complications and How to Avoid Them

Despite root canal safety, potential complications include persistent infection, a fractured tooth, or the procedure missing some of the infected canals. To avoid these, it’s crucial to follow all of our instructions, maintain good oral hygiene, and attend follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing.

How to contact us at our Sydney CBD clinic

Day Time +61292333399
After Hours 0406986909
Email Us: info@thedentist.net.au

1/70 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Mon & Thu: 8am-7pm
Tue, Wed & Fri: 8am-5pm
Saturday: 8am-1pm
Sunday: closed



Below you can find our FAQs about root canal treatment. Contact us for more information about the procedure, or use the online form above to book an appointment.

Is getting a root canal done painful?

Contrary to popular belief, a root canal treatment is usually not painful. Anaesthesia is used to numb the area, which makes the procedure comfortable for most patients. Any pain you might feel is generally due to the infection, not the procedure itself.

How long does a root canal treatment last?

The procedure length varies depending on the complexity of the tooth’s structure, but most root canal treatments take between 60 to 90 minutes. In some cases, the procedure may be spread over two or more visits to ensure optimal treatment outcomes.

How long does it take to feel normal after a root canal?

While most patients feel better immediately after the procedure, some may experience mild discomfort or sensitivity for a few days. If the discomfort persists for longer than a week or becomes severe, consult your dentist or endodontist.

Can you self diagnose a root canal?

Although certain symptoms might indicate the need for a root canal, self-diagnosis is not recommended. Only a dental professional can accurately diagnose the need for this treatment through a comprehensive examination and necessary tests.

Do I need a root canal if I have no symptoms?

Yes, it’s possible. Not all dental problems present symptoms, especially in the early stages. Regular dental check-ups can detect issues such as an asymptomatic abscess or a silent infection that might necessitate a root canal.

Does tooth pain always mean a root canal?

Not necessarily. While tooth pain can be a symptom of a root canal infection, it can also be caused by a cavity, gum disease, or tooth sensitivity. A dental professional can determine the cause of your tooth pain and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh
About The Author

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

Catherine-Anne is a New Zealand-qualified dentist. She holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Sydney University and she has a broad range of experiences from working in both the public and private sector.


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