“It’s not as bad as you think!”

A root canal is a dental treatment used to fix a tooth that’s badly decayed or infected. 

Inside your tooth, beneath the hard outer shell, is a soft core called the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. When decay or injury lets bacteria get deep inside your tooth, it can cause an infection or abscess in this pulp.

A root canal procedure removes this infected pulp, cleans the inside of the tooth, and then fills and seals it to prevent further damage. This process helps save your tooth so you won’t have to have it removed. 

Think of it as a deep clean for the inside of your tooth to get rid of the bad stuff and keep your tooth safe and sound.

Why Would You Need a Root Canal? 

The journey to a root canal usually starts with a cavity that went on a little too long without a visit to the dentist, or an injury that hits your tooth where it hurts the most – its pulp. The pulp is the living part of your tooth, home to nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. 

Symptoms suggesting the need for root canal therapy include:

  • Persistent tooth pain, which may be sharp or throbbing
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures that lasts after the source has been removed
  • Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
  • Discoloration of the tooth
  • A visible crack or chip in the tooth

The Root Canal Procedure: Step by Step

Step 1: Preparation

First, you’ll be given local anesthesia. This is to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible during the procedure. The area around the affected tooth will be numbed, so you’ll be awake, but you won’t feel any pain.

Step 2: Cleaning the Canals

The dentist or endodontist (a dentist specializing in such procedures) will then make a small opening in the top of your tooth to access the pulp chamber and root canals. This is where the precision cleaning starts. They’ll remove the infected or damaged tissue, meticulously cleaning out the canals of your tooth. It’s a bit like plumbing, but for your tooth.

Step 3: Filling and Sealing

Once the canals are clean and reshaped, they’re filled with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha, to seal them off from any further infection. This step is crucial for the stability and health of your tooth moving forward.

Step 4: Capping It Off

The final step often involves placing a crown or other restoration on your tooth. This is to protect and restore its function, and let’s be honest, its looks. A properly done root canal with a crown can last you a lifetime with the right care.

Aftercare: Keeping Your Tooth Happy

After the procedure, you might feel some tenderness or discomfort for a few days, which is normal. Over-the-counter pain relievers usually do the trick. But the best part? You get to keep your tooth, and after a little recovery time, it’s back to business as usual.

Does a root canal hurt?

Most people do not feel any pain during the procedure, as it is done under local anesthesia to numb the affected area. After the procedure, some mild discomfort is common, but it can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain medications.

How long does a root canal take?

The length of the procedure can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the individual patient’s needs. In general, most root canals can be completed in one or two visits.

What happens after a root canal?

After the procedure, you may experience some mild discomfort or sensitivity for a few days. Your dentist or endodontist will provide you with instructions on how to care for the tooth and manage any discomfort. You may need to return for a follow-up appointment to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth.