When you tell a patient they need a root canal, it’s usually followed by a look of panic. After the initial shock, their worry turns to questions. What is a root canal? Does it hurt? Why would someone need a root canal? Don’t worry; we can answer all of your questions.
According to the American Association of Endodontists, root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp (the soft tissue inside your teeth containing nerves and blood vessels) becomes inflamed or infected. Damage to the pulp can occur when you have a deep cavity, a cracked or fractured tooth, or an injury to the tooth (even when there is no visible crack or chip present). The American Dental Association provides a clear diagram to help understand the inner workings of a tooth (this will help when we explain the procedure below).
Are you currently experiencing tooth pain and thinking: “what is causing this pain”? Stop what you’re doing and make a dentist appointment! As we’ve mentioned before, it is imperative to see your dentist regularly, but this is especially true if you are feeling any sudden pain. Your dentist will be able to examine you and provide an outline for treatment.
Do not “live with” the pain until your next annual visit. If left untreated, your tooth could become further infected and you could risk losing your tooth completely due to bacteria damaging the bone.
Once it has been identified that you do need a root canal, what’s next? In general, this is the process of a root canal:

  • Local anesthesia is administered to prevent pain during the procedure (you read that correctly: despite misconceptions, root canals do not hurt)
  • An opening in the top of the tooth is made.
  • The nerve is removed from inside the tooth (known as the actual root canal).
  • The inside of the tooth and each root canal are cleaned with germ-killing medicine.
  • The canal openings are filled with a rubber-like material to prevent future infections.
  • A temporary filling crown is put in place to protect the healing tooth.
  • At your follow up visit (separate from your procedure visit), a permanent filling or crown is put in to protect your repaired tooth.

You survived, and it wasn’t so bad! Your tooth, and the area around it, may feel sensitive for a few days afterwards, but you will be in much less pain than you were before. Depending on the level of infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics after the root canal is complete. There will be a follow up visit after the procedure to ensure everything is healing well. With suitable care, your once painful tooth should be completely healed.
There are always circumstances that may lead to variations of the procedure, but your dentist will discuss those with you. If you experience pain with any of your teeth, contact us to set up an appointment and we will determine what you need to feel better.