Root Canal 101

Root canals are often mistakenly described as painful and unpleasant. Although that may have once been the case, with advances in modern medicine, today a root canal is a fairly painless procedure.

To understand a root canal procedure, it’s important to first understand the inner workings of a tooth. Your teeth are made up of more than the enamel you see when you look in the mirror- inside your teeth, you have a soft tissue called pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. When the pulp inside your tooth becomes inflamed or infected it can cause pain, sensitivity, tenderness when chewing, or swelling. Eventually, the infected pulp can cause an abscess. In order to avoid an abscess and solve your pain, we perform a root canal.

There are five steps to a root canal:

  1. The first step of a root canal is to take an x-ray of the affected tooth or teeth. This will give your endodontist a view of the inflamed or infected area.
  2. After your endodontist has reviewed the x-ray they will administer a numbing agent. This ensures you remain pain-free during the procedure.
  3. At this stage of the root canal, your endodontist will make a small opening on the top or “crown” of your tooth. Through this opening, your endodontist is able to clean the pulp from the tooth and root canals. This is also when your endodontist will disinfect and shape the root canals for a filling.
  4. Once the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned and shaped your endodontists will fill the root canal. The filling will be made of a biocompatible material held in place by an adhesive. Then, the small opening on the crown of your tooth will be closed with a temporary filling.
  5. The final step of a root canal is getting the temporary filling removed and a crown placed on the top of the tooth. This can be done by your regular dentist, or on some occasions by your endodontist.

Once the crown is placed on your tooth you will be able to eat, talk, and go about your daily life without any further pain or discomfort.

Although some people opt to have their natural tooth removed completely, we do not recommend this approach for a variety of reasons. First, the time invested in a tooth extraction is extensive due to the numerous follow-up appointments needed for dentures, a bridge, or an implant. Because of these follow up procedures, the total cost of a tooth extraction is almost always higher than the cost of a root canal. Also, according to the American Association of Endodontists “patients who experience root canals are six times more likely to describe it as painless than patients who have a tooth extracted.”

Although root canals have historically been an anxiety-producing procedure, today they are fairly painless and cost-effective procedures. In fact, root canals are performed over 25 million times every year, and once performed the tooth can last a lifetime.

Need to make an appointment for a root canal? Contact our office and let us help you have a pain free smile.


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