Guide to Understanding Root Canal

Root Canal Treatment. An Endodontist Preparing Patient for Root Canal Treatment.

Discover the facts that you might not know about root canal including what a root canal actually is and how to know if you need to get a root canal. 

A Root Canal is a procedure where your pulp is removed, and then the “canal” (hence the name root canal) is filled and restored. This is a procedure that helps relieve tooth pain caused by an inflamed pulp. Most of the time your pulp gets inflamed from an unattended cavity or a cracked tooth (both variables that make the chances of an infection higher). 

1. How do I know if I need a root canal? 

Often the first thing you’ll notice is tooth pain that just won’t go away. From there you’ll have your dentist take a closer look to see if your pulp is inflamed. A pulp usually gets inflamed when a cavity isn’t treated in a timely manner or if your tooth is cracked or damaged. Both instances make the inside of your tooth more susceptible to oral bacteria getting inside and causing an infection.

2. What is a root canal treatment?

Before your root canal, you’ll get x-rays of the affected area to make sure a root canal is the right option. Then there are multiple steps along the way to fixing you up properly. 

  1. Anesthesia – local anesthesia is given to numb your tooth and the surrounding gums so you don’t feel any pain from the incision. 
  2. Access hole – Your dentist will make a small hole in the crown of the tooth to access your pulp.
  3. Pulp removal – Next the dentist will use small dental instruments to remove the nerves, blood vessels, and tissues located inside your tooth.
  4. Shaping the canals – Now that the pulp is removed, the pulp chamber and root canals will get cleaned, disinfected, and shaped.
  5. Filling the canals – Now it’s time to fill the empty canals with gutta-percha, a flexible, rubbery dental material.
  6. Sealing the tooth –  To seal everything up, a temporary dental filling is placed to block the tooth from any bacteria that could re-enter.
  7. Placing the final restoration – In most cases, you’ll need a dental crown. This is necessary to protect the treated tooth and restore your bite. Crowns are tailored to fit perfectly in your mouth, so getting them made usually takes two to three weeks. Once your crown is ready, the temporary filling is removed so the crown can slide right in.

3. How long does a root canal take?

The length of a root canal procedure will vary, depending on the size of the tooth, the amount of roots, and on the level of infection. It could be a one or two-appointment procedure. Typically it will take 30 – 60 minutes but could take 60 – 90 minutes. 

4. Should I go to a dentist or an endodontist for a root canal?

You can have a dentist or an endodontist perform a root canal procedure, but if you are treating a tooth that has multiple roots or is complex, you’ll be recommended to go to an endodontist. 

5. Does a root canal hurt? 

No need to worry, most people seem to be relieved after the procedure. This is mainly because the initial infection, which was inflicting pain, is now gone. Make sure to call your healthcare provider if you have throbbing pain after a root canal.

6. How many dental visits does it take to complete a root canal?

Typically it can be done in one or two appointments, but it all depends on the complications and severity. 

After one or two appointments your smile and your tooth will be as good as new. Make sure to keep up with dental hygiene so you can prevent future cavities. Preventing cavities will help keep you away from future root canals. See your dentist when you have tooth pain as they can help you spot any potential cracked teeth and take action on them before infection happens and leads to an inflamed pulp.