Call us free on 0800 0853 823

Dental Procedure Guide: Root Canal

What is a root canal procedure?

Root canal surgery/root canal treatment (RCT) is a dental procedure carried out to address infection within the centre of a tooth. The treatment usually occurs when the pulp at the centre of your tooth has become infected or inflamed, and it cannot be treated by other means.

When a root canal procedure is carried out, the affected pulp is removed from the tooth, before a filling is placed inside. The primary objective of root canal surgery is to eliminate bacteria from the affected area, preserving the natural tooth as part of the process.

Root canal treatment may sometimes be uncomfortable but not painful in most cases, and it can help to save a tooth, instead of removing it.

See if you have a case for dental negligence:

When might root canal surgery be needed?

It is important to prevent tooth decay to reduce the risk of oral bacteria reaching the pulp. When the bacteria infiltrates the pulp inside your tooth, root canal surgery becomes necessary. You may not always need to have the procedure carried out when you experience tooth decay – if in doubt, it’s recommended that you speak to your dentist about alternative remedies.

Whilst endodontic treatment is typically performed as a result of tooth decay entering the pulp of a tooth it may also be necessary in other situations – for example, if you have a leaky filling or your tooth has become damaged.

Your dentist should be able to tell you definitively whether root canal surgery is needed. Nevertheless, there are various signs that can indicate whether you require the procedure. Your teeth may feel more sensitive than usual, particularly to hot or cold sensations.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Extreme pain when eating or biting
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Lingering sensitivity to temperature fluctuations
  • Swollen, tender or painful gums
  • Decay or darkening of the gums
  • Spots or abscesses on your gums

If you experience these symptoms, you should speak to your dentist as soon as possible to get the issue checked out.

If you suspect that root canal surgery was performed unnecessarily, you may have experienced negligent treatment, which could result in avoidable harm, unnecessary pain and potential psychological distress.

If you believe you may have been a victim of negligence following a root canal procedure, please reach out to our expert team for a thorough evaluation of your circumstances.

Root canal procedures: A step-by-step guide

When undergoing an endodontic procedure, your dental health professional should follow a number of steps.

While each situation is unique, in most cases, your dental treatment should progress through the following stages:

1. Before beginning your procedure, your dentist should first obtain informed consent from you, ensuring your willingness to undergo the surgery. In addition to explaining every aspect of the process, your dentist should also inform you of the potential side effects and risks. They have a responsibility to discuss any alternative treatments that might be available including the risks associated with having no treatment. If a dental health professional fails to provide accurate information or obtain valid consent, it could indicate that the standard of care has dropped.

2. Once consent has been granted, your dentist will need to prepare for your dental treatment. X-rays may need to be carried out before the surgery, allowing your dentist to assess the damaged area in full. The infected tooth will also need to be cleaned before use, and all tools utilised should be sterilised adequately. You’ll usually be given a local anaesthetic to numb the infected area.

3. Once preparations have been made, your dentist will then start to remove the pulp. A rubber dam (with a possible band/clamp) will be placed around the damaged tooth, ensuring it stays dry throughout the procedure. Your dentist will use a drill to open the tooth around the crown, allowing them to access the pulp chamber. Your dentist will remove the infected pulp and, if you have a dental abscess, drain any pus.

4. After the pulp has been removed, your dentist will clean the area and enlarge the root canal. Once enlarged, they will be able to fill the tooth and seal it with a filling. In most cases, this will be a temporary filling, as you’ll usually need to return for an additional appointment. Temporary medicine may also be placed in the area to prevent infection from occurring between treatments.

5. When you return for your next appointment, your dentist will remove the temporary filling, before inserting the root canal filling. Your dentist may also want to treat the affected tooth to prevent discolouration from occurring.

6. In some cases, a crown will then be fitted to protect the filling. Your dentist will use a drill to reduce the size of the tooth, before fitting a crown. A mould of your tooth should be used to ensure the crown accurately fits your tooth. Dental cement should be used to fit the crown to make sure it stays fixed to your tooth.

If a root canal treatment is carried out to a satisfactory standard, the affected tooth should last more than 20 years. However, it’s important to ensure you keep your teeth clean, as this will extend the longevity of the treatment.

If you’ve undergone a root canal procedure within the last three years and you feel that you’ve received negligent treatment, you may be able to open a dental negligence claim.

To find out whether you have a strong claim, please contact our legal team and we’ll advise you accordingly.

How long does a root canal procedure take?

The duration of a root canal procedure varies based on the affected teeth and the extent of repairs required. Consequently, we cannot provide an exact time frame for your surgery.

A simple root canal procedure may take between 30 and 60 minutes, although more complicated surgery could be longer, lasting anywhere up to three hours. For longer surgeries, you may need to have more than one appointment. However, this is something your dentist should inform you about before carrying out treatment.

How many appointments can I expect when having root canal surgery?

Most dentists prefer to carry out root canal surgery over two separate appointments, although this may vary depending on the area affected and the extent of the damage.

Some teeth have more than one root, which can lead to longer treatment plans. In most cases, you’ll require more than one appointment, but this is something your dentist will be able to confirm in more detail.

What should be covered in my consultation?

Before treatment is carried out, your dentist will first have to assess your situation, to ensure that a root canal is the correct procedure for your current needs. Consultations are an imperative part of the treatment process, as they allow your dentist to assess the problem, create a suitable treatment plan and inform you of the ramifications of the procedure.

Your dentist should first carry out a full consultation of your dental issue, based on the symptoms you’re experiencing and your previous dental records. It’s crucial that you provide accurate information, to ensure the correct treatment is carried out. A clinical examination of the affected area, which may include X-rays, should also be conducted during your consultation.

Once your dentist has diagnosed the issue, a treatment plan will be created – you should also be advised of any alternative procedures available. The surgery and aftercare should be described in detail, as well as any risks or side effects that may occur as a result.

You should then be given the option to ask any questions about the procedure, as it’s important that you understand the implications of the proposed treatment. You should also be asked to give voluntary consent for the procedure – your dentist should not carry out work on your teeth if consent is not given.

After your treatment plan has been confirmed, a surgery date will be arranged.

The aftercare process

As with any endodontic procedure, there are several steps you should take after your treatment to ensure the affected tooth stays healthy.

When recovering, the NHS recommends that you should avoid biting down on hard food, so you should chew on the other side of your mouth when eating. You should also ensure you keep your teeth clean by brushing them adequately every day – your dentist may be able to recommend suitable toothpaste or mouthwash to use after surgery. It’s also recommended that you cut down on sugary food and give up smoking (if you are currently a smoker), as these factors can lead to further issues in the future.

Your dentist has a duty of care to inform you about the aftercare steps required after surgery has been carried out – if they fail to advise you correctly, you may be able to pursue a dental negligence compensation claim. It’s important to note that the affected area may feel sensitive or sore after treatment – this is relatively normal, and the pain should fade after a while. If the pain doesn’t go away, or the gum starts to swell later, this is a sign that something may have gone wrong.


Who should you contact if your treatment goes wrong?

If a root canal treatment goes wrong or negligence occurs, there are several options you can consider, depending on your desired outcome.

If you’re unhappy with your procedure, you could contact your dentist and arrange another appointment, so they can assess the situation and provide remedial treatment (if needed). However, if you are unhappy with the surgery and feel that negligence may have occurred, you can also make an official complaint to your dentist.

Every dental surgery should have an effective complaints procedure, which they should provide when requested. You can find out more about your complaint options here.

Another option is to open a claim against your dentist. At the Dental Law Partnership, we’re a specialist firm of dental negligence solicitors, providing high quality legal representation for every client that works with us. We work on a no-win, no-fee basis, aiming to get you the justice you deserve if you have undergone dental negligence.

You can start a claim without making a complaint to your dentist, although it should be noted that there is a three year time frame from when the negligence occurred to open your claim.

If you’d like to find out more about the legal process, please complete our online enquiry form and we’ll help you get started.

Questions you should ask your dentist before undergoing treatment

Undergoing a dental procedure can be stressful, particularly if you already have a fear of the dentist. If you’re unsure of what the treatment might entail, or you’d like to find out more about the process, there are a number of questions you may want to ask:

  • – How much will the treatment cost?
  • – Am I able to get a reduction for the cost of the surgery?
  • – Is a written treatment plan available?
  • – Are there any side effects or risks that I should be aware of?
  • – What aftercare will I require?
  • – How long will my treatment take, and will I need any follow-up appointments?
  • – How do I prepare for my surgery?
  • – Are there any alternative procedures I could try instead?
  • – Are there specific cleaning products I should use during the recovery process?
  • – How can I prevent having to have root canal treatment in the future?
  • – Is there anything else I should be aware of before undergoing treatment?

However, depending on your personal circumstances, there may be other queries you have. Your dentist should be able to accurately answer your questions, and they should be able to provide documentation to support their answers.

If you think you may have suffered from dental negligence during a root canal procedure and you’d like to find out more about taking action, our dedicated team of dental solicitors will be able to help. Please get in touch on 0800 152 2038 and we will help you as much as we can.


Safeguarding your rights after root canal treatment

Undergoing root canal treatment can be stressful, particularly if you believe your dentist acted negligently. Now that you’ve read through this guide, you should have all the information you need to make an informed decision about the way your dental work was carried out, and whether you need to pursue a dental negligence claim. 

If you’re considering suing your dentist after root canal surgery, the Dental Law Partnership is here to help. Since our inception in 2000, we’ve helped hundreds of clients with their successful claims, and we aim to help hundreds more in the years to come.

Our team of expert solicitors can help you throughout the entire claims process, giving you all the advice you need to move forward with your life.

If you’d like to open a dental negligence claim, please get in touch and we’ll get the process started.

See if you have a case for dental negligence:

Start Your Claim

or call us free on: 0800 0853 823