When root canal treatment should be done
NHS ChoicesMedical Reference
Root canal treatment is only required when it is clear that the soft tissue at the centre of the tooth, called the pulp, has been damaged by a bacterial infection.
Your dentist can test your teeth and use X-rays to establish whether a bacterial infection has occurred. Dental X-rays use radiation to take images of your teeth to identify any problems. See the Health A-Z topic about X-rays for more information.
Symptoms of a pulp infection
The symptoms of a pulp infection include:
- pain when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drink
- pain when biting or chewing (in some cases)
- the tooth may become loose
As the infection progresses, these symptoms often disappear as the pulp dies. Your tooth then appears to have healed, but in fact the infection is spreading through the root canal system. Eventually further symptoms occur, such as:
- pain when biting or chewing
- swelling of the gum near the affected tooth
- pus oozing from the affected tooth
- facial swelling
- the tooth becoming darker in colour
It is important that you see your dentist if you develop toothache.
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease and some others are good for you.
The soft tissue at the centre of the tooth.
The root canal system contains the dental pulp and extends from the crown (the part of the tooth that is visible in the mouth) to the end of the root (which extends into the bone of the jaw, anchoring the tooth in position).