Root Canal Treatment 101

Published on 13 Jan 2022


Pain and tooth sensitivity are symptoms of tooth infection, which may require a root canal.

Pulp infection of the tooth arises when bacteria invades the pulp tissue either through a decay or crack, resulting in pain, swelling and/or tenderness of the affected tooth. To help save the tooth, a root canal procedure can be done to remove the infected tissue from inside the tooth, disinfecting it and filling it up.

Symptoms such as swelling and pain might signal a possible tooth infection. If you are considering a root canal, this article will take you through the entire endodontic treatment process, the risk and benefits, including its cost, so you know what to expect.

This article will cover the following topics:

What is a root canal?


A simple anatomy of a tooth.

To help you understand what a root canal involves, let’s first understand the structure of the tooth. The tooth is made of 3 layers - the outermost enamel, the dentine and cementum in between, and the innermost pulp, which contains nerves and blood supply to the tooth. The pulp is naturally protected by the thick layer of dentin and enamel.

The pulp may become inflamed by tooth decay or when bacteria invades the tooth through cracks. When this happens, the tooth will start to feel painful. If the initial cause of inflammation is left untreated or severe, the damage to the pulp is often irreversible, and the tooth may need to be extracted.

You can look at root canal treatment as an attempt to save your natural tooth from an extraction, get rid of pain and preserve the remaining structure of your tooth. During a root canal, the dentists will remove the infected pulp tissue, disinfect the root canal system and fill it with an inert material. This allows you to retain your natural tooth without the need for an extraction. Sometimes, a crown may be required after a root canal to reinforce the tooth.

Who is root canal treatment for?

Root canal treatment is for those who experience irreversible pulp inflammation, infection from a deep decay or severe tooth damage (e.g. cracked teeth).

The root canal treatment is crucial in alleviating pain, eliminating the localised tooth infection and preserving the surrounding bone tissue. If the infection is left untreated, it can cause more pain, bone loss and swelling that may spread to the face or neck. In severe cases where there is too little healthy tooth structure remaining, tooth extraction may be the only treatment option and you will lose your natural teeth.

Root canal treatments are suitable for children, adults and seniors. That being said, a paediatric dentist should be consulted if you suspect your child may require root canal treatment.

How do I know if I need a root canal?

There are several symptoms that might indicate an inflamed pulp. The most common symptoms are tooth sensitivity and pain. This may range from a short sharp sensitivity while chewing or drinking something cold to a prolonged pain which lasts for minutes to hours even when you are not eating or drinking anything.

If the pulp has been irreversibly damaged, the tooth will develop an infection. The tooth may be tender to touch. More visible symptoms include swelling and pimples on the gums. You might also find the infected tooth darkened or discoloured.

Your dentist would be the best person to determine if you need a root canal or if it is suitable in your case. At NTUC Health Denticare, our dentist will assess the extent of the infection and take an X-ray to examine your tooth structure before recommending root canal treatment.

How are root canals performed?


The different stages of root canal treatment.

First, the dentist will use local anaesthesia to numb the area surrounding the affected tooth. The dentist may place a rubber dam to isolate the tooth and prevent contamination.

An opening (or access cavity) is made in the affected tooth and the infected pulp is removed. Next, the root canals and pulp chamber are thoroughly cleaned. An endodontic file is used to clean and shape the inside of the tooth to ensure that the root canal system is properly disinfected. Medication is placed in the root canals system to allow for thorough disinfection over a few weeks and the opening is then sealed with a temporary filling.

A follow up appointment is required to review the patient's symptoms before completing the root canal treatment.The temporary filling is replaced with a rubber-based permanent filling (called gutta percha) and a core (filling) is used to cover up the tooth and restore its structure.

The root canal treatment is now complete and a post-operative x-ray is taken to ensure all affected areas are treated. You may be asked to consider a dental crown following the root canal treatment to reinforce the tooth.


Your dentist may use a rubber dam when treating your infected tooth.

How long do root canals take?

Depending on the complexity of your condition, the root canal treatment can take between 30 to 90 minutes per appointment. In most cases, more than one appointment may be necessary to allow for observation and complete disinfection of the prepared tooth before filling it. If the procedure is not completed within the same day, a temporary filling may be used until your next appointment.

How much does a root canal cost?

Here is how much root canal treatment and dental crowns cost at NTUC Health Denticare:

Root Canal Treatment

$400.00 – $800.00

Dental Crowns

Metal/Ceramic Crown

$700.00 - $800.00

Semi-Precious/Precious Metal Crown

From $750.00

Porcelain/Ceramic Crown

$750.00 - $950.00

Zirconia Crown


These prices are inclusive of GST and correct at the time of publishing. Please check with our clinics for the latest prices.

The cost of a root canal treatment depends on a few factors. This includes the type of tooth, the anatomy of the roots as well as the extent of the remaining tooth structure. Molars tend to be larger than premolars, canines and incisors. They also have more roots and often multiple root canals within the roots, which makes their treatment more complex.

Another factor is the amount of remaining good tooth structure. The more extensive the damage or loss of healthy tooth structure, the more structure your dentist will need to replace. This may mean a larger permanent filling (or core), a post within the root canal system and often a permanent crown following the completion of your root canal treatment.

Since dental crowns are typically required to restore your tooth post-root canal, you would also have to factor them into the cost of the entire treatment. The cost of dental crowns then depends on the type of material used, such as porcelain, ceramic, or metal. Learn more about affordable dental crowns and their costs.

Can I use MediSave/CHAS to pay for root canal treatment?

Root canal treatments are not MediSave claimable.

However, CHAS subsidies are available for both root canal treatment (up to 2 per calendar year) and dental crowns (up to 4 per calendar year).

You can find the relevant subsidies in the table below:

Dental Service

CHAS Orange



Merdeka Generation

Pioneer Generation

Root Canal Treatment (Anterior)





Root Canal Treatment (Pre-molar)





Root Canal Treatment (Molar)





Permanent Crown





Do visit the CHAS website for more details.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • root-canal-5.jpg

    An example of a ceramic dental crown.

    You can think of a dental crown as a tooth-shaped "cap" that goes on top of a structurally weakened tooth. Undergoing a root canal treatment usually involves removing even more tooth structure and hence, a dental crown is usually necessary in order to protect and restore the tooth for function. Find out more about dental crowns here.

  • In most cases, you will be able to resume normal daily activities within the same day of your root canal procedure. You may have some tooth sensitivity, which can be easily managed with the medication prescribed by your dentist.

    Avoid chewing or biting with the newly-treated tooth. Once it is completely restored with a permanent filling and a dental crown, you can eat normally.

    Lastly, it is essential that you continue to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly. This will go a long way in helping you to prevent reinfection.

  • root-canal-6.jpg

    Tooth extraction is a cheaper alternative but it means losing your natural tooth.

    An alternative to root canal treatment for a painful or heavily damaged tooth is a tooth extraction. While a tooth extraction may be significantly cheaper (they cost between $65.00 to $190.00 at NTUC Health Denticare), it means losing your natural tooth. There are other risks that come with opting to have your tooth extracted too. For example, the surrounding teeth may begin to shift and may affect your bite and oral hygiene.

  • In most cases, a tooth treated with a root canal can last up to about 5 to 10 years¹ before needing treatment again. However, there are rare instances in which the tooth may get reinfected despite successful treatment, which indicates leakage from new decay, cracks, gums or a missed root canal. You might need a second endodontic treatment to restore the tooth.


Root canal treatment may sound complex, scary or painful, but fret not. With advancements in dentistry over recent years, improved equipment and techniques have been developed to make root canal treatments more comfortable and effective.

In the event that you are experiencing excruciating pain and need a root canal, you can call us at 6336 6222 to book a same-day appointment. Alternatively, you can fill in the e-appointment form below.

Make an appointment today!

Call us at 6336 6222 or get in touch via our e-appointment form to book your appointment today!

¹Outcome of primary root canal treatment (Source)

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