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Root canal treatment (also called endodontics) is needed when the blood or nerve supply of the tooth (known as the pulp) is infected through decay or injury.
You may not feel any pain in the early stages of the infection. In some cases, your tooth could darken in colour which may mean that the nerve of the tooth has died (or is dying). This would need root canal treatment.
The infection may spread through the root canal system of the tooth. This may eventually lead to an abscess. An abscess is an inflamed area in which pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues around the tooth. The symptoms of an abscess can range from dull ache to severe pain and the tooth may be tender when you bite.
The aim of the treatment is to remove all infection from the root canal. The root is then cleaned and filled to prevent any further infection. Most courses of treatment will involve two or more visits to your dentist.
Once the treatment has completed a dead tooth is more brittle, it may be necessary to restore the tooth with a crown to provide extra support and strength to the tooth.