Pain Free Dentistry

What Exactly Is a Root Canal?

Pain Free Dentistry

What Exactly Is a Root Canal?

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Root canals might get a bad rap, but they are one of many options to save your natural teeth. Thanks to technological advances, they are more comfortable and successful than ever.

Years ago, the thought of a root canal would cause people more pain than a toothache. However, advances in digital imaging, materials, and techniques make the procedure almost as quick and safe as a filling.

Why Do I Need a Root Canal?


Inside every tooth is the pulp, which contains the blood vessels and nerves that nourish the tooth’s survival. If the nerves are compromised, they may die. This can be caused by a crack or fracture in the tooth, trauma to the nerve, a deep cavity, or several restorations to the same tooth over time.

Left untreated, the dying nerve creates an infection, or abscess, that causes pain and swelling and may even compromise the health of the bone and teeth surrounding the affected tooth.

If a root canal is necessary, your dentist will schedule a time for the procedure or refer you to a root canal specialist called an endodontist.

The Procedure

So, what exactly happens during a root canal? Despite the jokes and stories you may have heard, a root canal is a relatively painless and straightforward procedure. It can take one or two visits depending on a few factors, such as the severity of the infection and how accessible the canals are.

First, your dentist will deliver some local anesthetic and take a preoperative x-ray of the tooth. Once you are numb, your dentist will place a rubber dam over the affected tooth. This prevents oral bacteria from contaminating the affected tooth after removing the infection.

A small opening into the tooth is made, and nerve and pulp are removed using a series of small files. A disinfecting solution will help rinse away lingering bacteria. Once the canals are sterilized, they are filled with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha to prevent reinfection and to help stabilize the roots.

After Your Root Canal

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Once your root canal is finished, your dentist may place a temporary filling until a permanent filling or crown can be scheduled. This will also give your dentist time to monitor the tooth and ensure all the infection is gone and the tooth no longer has any symptoms.

Immediately after the root canal, you may have some soreness or sensitivity around the tooth. Remember that your mouth is open during the procedure, and jaw discomfort can be expected. If your tooth was severely infected, your dentist might prescribe antibiotics.

With proper care and routine professional cleanings, a tooth with a root canal can be treated like any other natural tooth and will last just as long. Preserving our natural teeth has never been as simple and pain-free.

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