What is a
Root Canal?

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What is a dental root canal?

Find out what’s involved in a root canal treatment 

Root canal treatment describes the removal of infected or damaged pulp (neurovascular) tissue inside the tooth’s root system and sealing it off with a filling material and sealant that will help prevent bacteria from reentering and reinfecting the tooth and surrounding tissue.  A root canal procedure is the only option for a tooth that has developed an infection inside the pulp chamber if a person wants to maintain its function for as long as possible.  The alternative is to remove the infected tooth leaving a gap and the potential for problems later on.  This pulp or nerve tissue supports the growth of a tooth throughout development during childhood.  Once the pulp has been removed with a root canal procedure the tooth is called a ‘pulpless tooth’.  You may hear people refer to a root canal treated tooth as a ‘dead tooth’ however this is not an accurate description.  The tooth is still technically ‘alive’ and will continue to receive nutrients from the tissue surrounding the roots to keep it functioning as a healthy oral appendage, even though, yes, it can no longer sense temperature or pain making it feel as if it has indeed died.  The pulp or nerve inside a tooth is made up of blood vessels, nerves and tissue fibres. 

Once a tooth has fully formed, it no longer relies on this stream of nutrients to help it grow.  After the tooth has fully developed, it begins to rely on the tissue surrounding the root to continue providing nutrition throughout its life.  Therefore, although not as strong due to its core being somewhat hollowed out, an adult tooth can function as normal after this pulp tissue has been removed, as is done with root canal treatment.

The main cause of an infected pulp is when tooth rot (decay) makes its way from the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) through to the vulnerable pulp tissue living inside the tooth’s root chambers, or when the tooth has been knocked or damaged in some way causing a perfectly healthy pulp to resorbed away or become infected.  Accidents aside, needing a root canal treatment is almost completely avoidable with a simple yet structured home care routine of brushing and flossing daily to keep decay away, and regular check-ups at the dentist to catch any small areas of decay and exposed areas of dentine from chips and cracks before bacteria has the chance to penetrate deep inside the tooth.

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How do I know if I need a root canal?

How do I know if I need a root canal?

Find a dentist that treats root canals, on AirSmile

  1. Swollen face?  Severe tooth pain keeping you awake at night?  Eating and drinking have become too much to take?  You might need a root canal.  Fortunately, we have sourced the best dentist all across Australia with the expertise and high tech equipment that will provide you with a quality root canal service and get you out of pain.  Begin your search here for an expert dental professional that offers the best root canal treatments near you.

How much does a root canal cost?

Learn what you can expect to pay for a dental root canal service.

The term “root canal” is a scary one for many Australians. With the right dentist or endodontist, it can be a less frightening experience than you might think.


First, let’s explain exactly what a root canal is. The best way to describe it is as the removal of infected or damaged pulp (neurovascular) tissue inside the tooth’s root system. Once that pulp is removed, the dental professional seals the root off with a filling material and sealant to help prevent bacteria from re-entering and reinfecting the tooth and surrounding tissue.


Common signs you need a root canal include:

• Severe toothache when biting or chewing
• Sensitivity to hot or cold that lasts after the heat or cold has been removed
• Darkening of the tooth
• Swollen and tender gums
• Pus around an infected tooth
• Swelling of the face or neck
• A loose tooth


Even if you have one or more of these signs, and they lessen, having a root canal often prevents tooth loss and alleviates pain and discomfort. This procedure also addresses severe tooth decay and prevents the possible infection of surrounding teeth.


Root canal cost varies based on numerous factors, such as:
• The complexity of the procedure
• The degree of infection
• The location of the infected tooth
• Whether you need more than one appointment.
• The expertise of your dentist
• The Location of your dentist (urban vs. rural)


Another factor that can affect root canal cost is the number of canals the infected tooth has. Molars with more canals, for example, will likely cost an average of 20-30 percent more than front teeth.


The average cost of a root canal — without a crown — in Australia ranges from $700 to $3,400. That’s based on the 2020 national dental fee survey. If an endodontist performs the procedure, that number will likely be about 20-30 percent more.


In some cases, as when more than filling is required, you will need a full crown on the tooth on which the root canal was performed. The price of a full dental crown runs anywhere from $1,200 to $2,400 — in addition to the cost of the root canal.


Root canal cost for a tooth with three canals may be priced up to $2,760 without a crown and $4,760 with. The permanent filling following a root canal costs between $200-$550.

What are the
advantages of a root canal?

Maintain function

Keeps the tooth

Oral Health

Continue eating what you like

Best treatment for infected pulp

Fast relief of pain

What are the
advantages of root canal?
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Learn more about root canal treatment.

Understanding your condition is the
key to making the right choices for you 

If you are experiencing…

A lingering sensitivity or intense pain to hot or cold

Slight to severe pain from the tooth

Pain on biting / tender to pressure

The gum below the crown of the tooth is sore to touch

The tooth has a deep unnatural crack which has formed and is now letting bacteria inside the tooth’s core

A persistent pimple or boil on the gum (possibly oozing pus)

The tooth becomes discoloured (a shade ranging from dark yellow – black)

The gum tissue begins to discolour

Trauma occurs to the tooth from a knock or fall

You see and feel obvious signs of decay (tooth rot) 

and sometimes there are little to no noticeable symptoms at all…

This is possibly the most debated dental question with an answer that requires outlining both the pros and cons of root canal treatments to help provide some clarity and reassurance that you’re making the right decision for you.  Root canal treatments have certainly developed a reputation over the years for being a painful procedure to have done in the dental chair, failing later down the track forcing the patient to have the tooth painfully removed anyway, and/or weakening the tooth resulting in it breaking apart while eating a simple sandwich.  Not to mention, the entire root canal procedure can become an extremely expensive process to have completed. Possibly one of the most costly services offered in dental due to its complexity, technical skill and equipment and materials needed on hand to perform effectively.  When faced with the emotional decision to save a tooth with root canal treatment or have it removed, a vast majority tend to choose the latter as it provides a quick and cheap solution to what is usually a very painful problem.  

However, it does pay to take a few moments before you have the tooth removed to think about the consequences of not having a root canal procedure to save the tooth.  For one, removing a tooth can cause havoc over time as the mouth is unable to function at full capacity.  This puts a huge amount of stress on the remaining teeth and jaw.  This additional load will undoubtedly impact the stability and health of the rest of the mouth.  Therefore, opting to have root canal treatment means you get to keep the tooth in your mouth and continue functioning and chewing as normal for a lot longer.  For some, that’s a good enough reason on its own to risk the potential for something to go wrong later on.

After routine teeth cleaning you will most likely be advised that you can eat straight away. If you have been advised to postpone eating or drinking for a short period of time this is often due to a remineralising or strengthening product having been applied to the teeth, such as fluoride gel or a varnish to help with areas of sensitivity, or you have been administered with local anaesthetic (numbing injection) to make the teeth cleaning or deep gum therapy treatment comfortable and pain-free. Always follow the direction of your dental professional to avoid causing damage to your soft tissue and to get the maximum benefit from the treatment you’ve received.

Completing the full root canal treatment process can vary depending on the level of infection in the tooth, the dentist’s preferred and learned method of performing a root canal, how you go in the chair and the flexibility in both your and the dentist’s schedule.

Most commonly, a root canal procedure from start to finish takes between 2 – 4 appointments, each around 1 hour in length. 

The root canal cost will vary depending on a few factors.

How many pulp chambers/canals the tooth has as the cost is calculated on how many canals need treatment (and yes, all canals need to be treated, not just the ones with signs of infection).  The number of canals a tooth has ranges from 1 – 4 depending on the tooth (front teeth have 1 – 2, molars have 2 – 4).  The average cost of treating one canal is around $700 – $900.  For every canal after that is between $150 – $300.

If you’re being treated by a general dentist or endodontic specialist, this will impact the overall cost.

Additional services the dentist may charge for such as; consultation, x-rays and temporary dental fillings used between visits.

What type of restorative service you choose to have after the root canal is finished to close off the access hole and give the tooth back it’s long term integrity.  Your options are a standard tooth filling or a tooth crown.

As you can see, root canal treatments are one of the most expensive treatments performed by a dentist due to its complexity, skills, equipment and materials needed to perform.  It’s important you receive a written quote before starting any treatment and agree to the full fee.

Root canal treatment has a very high success rate considering its complexity and the circumstances that lead to needing the treatment in the first place. In most cases, dentists can give up to a 95% rate of success for a root canal treatment.  Obviously, other factors may alter the percentage of success at the time of treatment such as the amount of disease present, how badly the tooth has been compromised with decay or previous restorative treatments, the difficulty in accessing the entire root canal system and effectively cleaning out the infected tissue and sealing it up.  Any of these factors could lessen how effective a root canal will be long term.

However in the majority of cases, if you seek treatment early on before the infection and decay causes a considerable amount of damage to the tooth structure and with proper home care, regular visits to the dentist to check the stability of the tooth, gum and root canal following root canal treatments, the aim and hope is that you will keep the tooth in a fully functioning state for many years to come.

If you’re in pain and the dentist has diagnosed that you need root canal treatment to remove the source of infection to retain the tooth and return to feeling normal, unfortunately, your options are somewhat limited.  However, there are two options on the table for your consideration – each with their good and bad points.

Two options you might consider if you don’t want root canal:

Do nothing!  However, if left untreated, the infection can spread to your jaw and throughout your head and neck.  In rare cases, it can lead to sepsis.  Sepsis is when your body tries to fight the infection itself which then rapidly leads to tissue damage, organ failure and with no medical intervention – death. Developing sepsis caused by a tooth infection is a life-threatening complication of a condition that could have been treated with a simple root canal procedure at your local dentist.  

Remove the tooth.  This will remove the infection quickly and affordably (the cost of removing a tooth is usually between $150 – $450), however, your tooth has now also gone along with it leaving you with a gap and one less tooth to chew on in the future.  

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