The relationship of our teeth and mouth to overall good health is indisputable. Endodontics plays a critical role in maintaining good oral health by eliminating infection and pain, and preserving our natural dentition.

A key responsibility of any dentist is to reassure patients who are concerned about the safety of endodontic treatment that their overall well-being is a top priority. The American Association of Endodontists website is the best place for anxious patients to obtain comprehensive information on the safety and efficacy of endodontics and root canal treatment.

The effectiveness of root canal treatment is well-established. However, misinformation continues to circulate on the Internet that may cause patients to question the safety of endodontics. It is in the best interest of patients to understand: 

  • There is no valid, scientific evidence linking root canal-treated teeth and disease elsewhere in the body. A root canal is a safe and effective procedure. When a severe infection in a tooth requires endodontic treatment, that treatment is designed to eliminate bacteria from the infected root canal, prevent reinfection of the tooth and save the natural tooth. 

Infection and abscess of the pulp always require endodontics to relieve the symptoms. The basic goal of Root Canal Therapy is the removal of decaying material, maintenance of dryness, cleanliness and sterility within the root canals and filling and sealing the root canals.

The procedure is usually performed in the following manner:

1.Tooth is anaesthetized.

2.For safety and in order to keep the tooth clean and sterile, a latex rubber dam with a small hole is placed into the mouth exposing only the one tooth.

3.The dentist gains access to the pulp with a hand piece (drill).

4.The exact length of the tooth is established using an x-ray, (preferably digitally taken) and/or a piece of equipment called an apex finder, which measures the value (frequency or amplitude) of electrical conductivity at the narrowest point of the root canal (apical constriction) to locate the apex (end of root).

5.Thin and flexible, files, broaches and reamers, either steel or now the mostly used, more flexible Nickel-Titanium (Ni-TI) either by hand or on a handpiece (rotary instrumentation) will remove the decayed matter, blood vessels and nerve tissue to the apex, then widen or enlarge the canal.

6.Sterile water or Hydrogen Peroxide or Sodium Hypochlorite is used to flush and clean out the debris, necrotic (dead) tissue and bacteria.

7.The canal is dried, then a cotton pellet with/without a medicament (preferably a non-toxic one) is placed in the opening disinfect or sterilize the canal the opening is closed with temporary cement between visits.

8.When the tooth is ready, the canals are permanently sealed by filling or packing with materials discussed later in this article.

This procedure takes one to three visits depending upon the number of canals, position of the tooth, and how damaged the pulp was.  The hard tooth structure of the root remains anchored in the bone. The hard tooth structure that is visible in the mouth is later restored with a filling or a post and crown dependent upon the amount of tooth that remains.

Check out some additional safety information available: