What is Endodontics?

Endodontics is the dental specialty concerned with the study and treatment of the dental pulp. In the middle of your teeth there is a core of blood vessels and nerves called pulp. The pulp sits inside a space called the root canal. Each tooth can have one or more root canals. Your front teeth often have just one root canal, whereas your back teeth may have three or more.

The pulp in your tooth can become infected with bacteria if your tooth becomes damaged.


•Severe tooth decay.
•An injury, such as a blow to your mouth.
•Cracked or loose fillings, or repeated fillings in your tooth.
•Gum disease.

If the pulp in your tooth becomes infected this can spread to the root canal and your tooth may become painful. If the infection spreads further it can cause a tooth abscess, which is a collection of pus. This can be painful and tender when you bite down on your tooth and can cause swelling around your tooth and jaw. Sometimes your tooth may look darker in colour than your other teeth, which means that the nerve inside your tooth is dead or dying.

The aim of root canal treatment is to remove the damaged pulp and the bacteria that are causing the infection. Your dentist will drill a hole into the tooth to the root canal and remove the pulp and infected tissue. He or she will then clean and fill the empty root canal and put a permanent seal over the top of your tooth.

Root canal treatment can save a tooth which would otherwise need to be taken out. When a tooth is removed it can affect how you look and also how well you chew. Although your dentist will remove nerves and blood vessels from your tooth when the pulp is taken out, your tooth will continue to live. This is because the surrounding tissues provide it with the blood and nutrients it needs.

Root canal treatment can often be done in one session, or you may need to have treatment over more than one session. How long treatment takes will depend on how severe the problem is. All dentists can carry out root canal treatment. However, if you need repeated root canal treatment on a tooth that has already had it (this is called re-treatment), or if your tooth is difficult to treat your dentist may refer you to an endodontist, who specialises in root canal treatment.


Sometimes damaged teeth can’t be repaired with root canal treatment. This is usually if your tooth is badly damaged or if you have severe gum disease which prevents your tooth from healing or being well supported after treatment. In this case your dentist may suggest you have the tooth removed (extracted).