Why would I need Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment is a procedure that helps to relieve patients’ toothaches and to clear the infection present inside a tooth. The common reasons for toothaches or infection is tooth decay and cracks. 

How does a toothache come about? A tooth has a chamber and root canal spaces within the center of the tooth, which is where the soft tissues of the pulp are located. Pulps have nerve tissues and when the tooth is damaged by decay or a crack, bacteria can infiltrate into these tissues. It can then become inflamed or infected, giving rise to severe pain commonly known as a toothache. When no treatment is rendered, the infected pulp will affect other tissues such as the jaw bone and the gums. This can potentially cause severe pain of the jaw bone and sometimes swelling of the gums, cheeks or the lips. Root canal treatment is necessary to eliminate the infection and spare the tooth from an extraction. 

It is unfortunate that many people think that root canal treatment is a painful procedure. In fact, the experience of severe pain during and after root canal treatment is unlikely. The fear for root canal treatment usually stems from the lack of knowledge of the procedure itself. With reassurance and explanation from the dentist or the Endodontist, the patient can understand why they need root canal treatment and what can be done to resolve their dental issues and pain.  

Root Canal Treatment Procedure 

Before the Procedure: The dentist or the Endodontist has to make a thorough examination of the teeth so that the painful tooth is correctly identified. There are several examination procedures and some are done to reproduce the symptoms of the painful tooth. A radiograph is also taken to check the tooth and the surrounding tissues. 

Demonstration of Rubber Dam Isolation with a Dummy Training Head.

Preparing The Treatment Area: Anaesthetic injections are necessary for patients before the actual procedure. Patients with long-standing toothaches or severe infection require special attention so that the teeth are properly anaethesized. Endodontists are experienced in this aspect and will be able to employ the appropriate technique according to the severity of the patients’ pain or infection. Once the anaesthetic injection is successfully delivered, the patient should not feel any severe pain during the procedure. 

During root canal treatment, it is important to prevent further contamination of the root canal space. A rubber dam, which is a rubber sheet, is used to isolate the tooth from the rest of mouth, creating a clean environment. The rubber dam and the affected tooth will also be disinfected prior to starting the treatment. 


Picture of a cleaning file fitted on a motor

Creating A Small Hole and Cleaning the Root Canals: After the rubber dam and the affected tooth has been disinfected, the dentist or Endodontist will then drill a small hole on the surface of the affected tooth to access the root canal spaces. If there was decay in the tooth, the decay should be removed before preparing the hole. Once entry to the canal is achieved, the dentist or the Endodontist will use small files and disinfecting solution to clean the canals and remove the infected or inflamed pulp tissues. The cleaning can typically take an hour. Medicament paste is commonly placed in the canal for at least a week and the hole is sealed up with a temporary filling. 


Picture of gutta percha material

Applying Root Canal Fillings: Following the thorough cleaning of the root canal, the dentist or the Endodontist will fill the canal space with a rubber-like material known as gutta percha. Pressure and/or heat is applied to the gutta percha so that the material adapts to the walls of the root canal. A sealer, which is a cement, is placed together with the gutta percha so that it creates a better seal to prevent reinfection of the canals. 

Root Canal Treatment Aftercare: The numbness following anaesthesia can last for a few hours but patients can still consume their meals, with extra care to avoid hot food and eating on the affected side. Patients should also avoid any hard food which may cause fracture of the affected tooth. Daily brushing and flossing should be continued as per normal. 

Root canal treatment is less invasive than an extraction and an implant procedure and patients should not expect any severe pain or swelling. However, patients with severe infection and pain before the procedure should expect the symptoms to subside only after a few days. Painkillers may be prescribed if pain is expected to persist, while antibiotics are only warranted for some cases. 

After the root canal treatment has been completed, the tooth will need a permanent filling or a crown. This restores the tooth to full function. 

Reach Out To Our Root Canal Treatment Specialist Today

If you are currently worried about undergoing a root canal treatment, there is no need to fret. Our Endodontists, the root canal treatment specialists at The Endodontic Office can walk you through the procedure as well as the aftercare. If you have any further questions, please reach out to us through our Contact Page

By Dr Helena Koh
Dr Helena Koh is an Endodontist in The Endodontic Office and is accredited as a specialist by the Singapore Dental Council. She has 10 years’ of clinical experience in Root Canal Treatments.