Worried about your dentist recommending a “root canal treatment”? Don’t worry, we got you covered from cusps to root tips! While extraction was the go-to treatment a few decades back for a decayed tooth, today with root canal treatment, we can save and restore your natural teeth. This is important because, nothing man-made however perfect, comes close to nature. So let us understand Root canal treatments or RCTs ,as they call it in the trade, in detail.

What is root canal treatment

Root canal treatment is a dental procedure in which the tooth is cleaned and disinfected with specialized instruments and then sealed with an inert material to prevent further infections. It is usually performed by an endodontist, or a root canal specialist and is generally carried out when the tooth is badly decayed.

Why is it required

Not all decayed teeth require a root canal treatment. If the cavity in your tooth is in its initial stages, it can be treated with a simple filling. However, when the decay progresses to the deeper layers of the tooth, it affects the dental pulp, which is essentially a collection of blood vessels and nerves. Once affected, the dental pulp gets irreversibly damaged and removing it is the only way to preserve the tooth’s function. Since the area occupied by the dental pulp is known as the root canal, the procedure is termed as root canal treatment. 


Although untreated caries is the main culprit, there are also other situations which can injure the dental pulp, warranting a root canal treatment:


  • Injury or trauma to the tooth 

  • Fracture or crack to the tooth

  • Multiple procedures on the same tooth

How do you know if you need a root canal

Any tooth that is damaged will elicit some symptoms one day or the other. Most commonly seen signs of an injured pulp are:

  • Abnormal sensitivity to hot and cold, which lingers even after removal of the stimulus

  • Sharp shooting pain

  • Swelling in the gums

  • Pain while biting and chewing

  • Cracked or chipped tooth

Is root canal treatment painful? How is it done?

There is no need to be frightened if your dentist recommends you to go for a root canal treatment. It is a fairly straight-forward and painless procedure which can be completed in a single sitting for most cases. 


A root canal treatment entails the following steps:

Administration of local anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding areas

Preparation of an access cavity to enable access to the affected dental pulp

Removal of the affected pulp and dead tissues along with disinfection of the root canal

Filling of the root canal with an inert filling material to seal all areas from potential future infections

Placement of temporary filling to seal the access cavity and close the tooth


Recent technological advances have enabled dentists to complete most root canals in a single sitting these days. However, in certain situations, if the root canal anatomy is complex or if there is severe infection, or any other complication, the treatment may be done for over multiple sessions.

What to expect after root canal?

Typically, you will be able to carry out all your routine day-to-day activities following the root canal treatment. Do note that some amount of tenderness is normal after a root canal treatment. Following the root canal, your dentist will prescribe certain medications like painkillers and antibiotics (if necessary) to help you with a smooth recovery. Once the symptoms subside, the permanent filling and crown may be placed.

Can any complications arise during the root canal

The good news is that root canal is a highly successful procedure with a success rate of almost 95%. However, just like any other medical procedure, root canal treatments can also come with a set of complications. There can be unexpected variations in the canal anatomy or separation of instruments in the canal while negotiating them, or there can be re-infection in an already treated tooth due to breakdown of sealing material. In certain cases, surgery may be required to resolve the issue completely.