Everything You Need to Know About Root Canals

Root canals sound scarier than they are! Modern root canals are routine procedures that won’t cause you much discomfort. Read on to learn everything you need to know about root canals!

What is a root canal?

As you may know, your teeth are made up of three distinct layers. The outermost layer – your enamel – is very strong. Dentine is the middle layer of the tooth, and is much softer than the enamel.

The innermost layer is called the pulp, and is the part of the tooth we’ll discuss today because a root canal involves drilling into a dead or decaying tooth to remove the tooth’s pulp: the soft centre which consists of nerves, your tooth’s blood supply and connective tissue. 


Anatomy of a tooth: cross section showing the enamel, dentine, and pulp.

The damaged or infected pulp is removed and replaced with a filling. To complete the procedure, the tooth may be fitted with a dental crown to secure the tooth’s structural integrity.

Root Canal treatment is a complex and precise treatment that involves the shaping and disinfection of the inside of a tooth that has become infected. That said, it is nothing out of the ordinary, and our skilled dentists have plenty of experience with the procedure.

When do we need a root canal?

Root canal treatments may be needed when the tooth’s pulp is damaged, diseased or infected. Teeth could be damaged by general dental decay, decay beneath an existing filling, tooth damage due to trauma, tooth grinding (bruxism) or gum disease (gingivitis).

Symptoms of damaged dental pulp may include:

  • Unprovoked or spontaneous pain
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold drinks and foods
  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • The tooth feeling loose
  • Swollen gums near the affected tooth
  • Oozing of pus surrounding the affected tooth
  • Facial swelling around the jaw, cheeks or cheekbones

Dental pulp can sometimes be damaged without displaying any symptoms, in which case it can be uncovered during routine x-rays during your check-ups.

What happens if you don’t get a root canal?

Some may choose to avoid getting a root canal because they are afraid of the dentist, but that is not a good decision. It may appease your anxiety in the short term, but it could lead to serious complications.

Untreated pulp infections could lead to a spreading infection. Once a pulp is infected it loses its ability to fight the infection, which can begin to spread to other teeth, or down into your gums and roots, creating a painful abscess.

The infection may spread around the ends of the infected root canal and cause bone loss in the jaw, and could ultimately lead to a full loss of the tooth. The tooth will have to be removed, which could interfere with your ability to chew.

Read also: How to Stop Being Afraid of the Dentist

How can a root canal save a tooth?

During your treatment, the damaged pulp is removed, and the remaining tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected to stop the infection from spreading. The tooth is then filled and sealed with a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha, and capped with a crown.

Saving a tooth that would otherwise have to be removed has a couple of advantages for you:

  • You maintain efficient chewing
  • Keep bite force and sensation
  • Protects other teeth from excessive wear or strain

Saving your tooth can also save your smile, as it will maintain the natural appearance of your pearly whites.

Experiencing any dental distress? Simply give our friendly receptionists a call on 07 4054 2203 or book an appointment with Cairns Precision Dental Group online – it takes less than a minute!

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