root canal procedure

Root Canal Procedure: What Can You Expect?

Many people are alarmed at even the thought of a root canal. Yet there’s no need. A root canal procedure is a common treatment for relieving tooth pain and restoring health to damaged or decayed teeth. And millions of teeth are saved every year by undergoing this type of procedure. In fact, an estimated 41,000 root canal procedures are performed every day in the U.S. That adds up to more than 15 million per year!

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal (aka endodontic treatment) is a common dental procedure in which inflamed or infected pulp inside a tooth is cleaned and disinfected before being filled and sealed. The procedure is designed to remove any bacteria that’s gotten down into the tooth’s root. This can prevent reinfection, ultimately saving your tooth’s life while relieving pain and discomfort.

Why Do People Need Root Canals?

Root canals are typically needed to repair deep cavities, cracked teeth due to injury or wear, or issues with a previous filling. Complaints often revolve around teeth that are particularly sensitive, especially to hot and cold, which tends to linger even once the heat or cold has been removed.

Other symptoms that may indicate the need for a root canal include:

  • Severe pain when chewing or biting down that doesn’t go away
  • An infected or abscessed tooth
  • Chips or cracks in the teeth due to injury
  • Swollen, tender, or darkened gums
  • Pimples or boils on the gums that may leak pus from the infected tooth (leading to an unpleasant taste or smell in the mouth)
  • Swelling of the jaw due to infection
  • Deep tooth decay from faulty crowns or untreated cavities
  • Darkening of the teeth due to an infection and poor blood supply
  • Loose teeth

How Is a Root Canal Procedure Performed?

Within the tooth, beneath the hard enamel and dentin, is a soft pulp tissue. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue that help nourish a tooth as it grows. Once a tooth is fully formed, it no longer needs the pulp as the surrounding tissues can sustain it. 

A root canal procedure is similar to a routine dental filling and can typically be completed in just one or two appointments, depending on the tooth’s condition. The procedure is generally painless and very effective at restoring the tooth’s health. Once the tooth is restored, you’ll find less pain and more efficient chewing, including natural bite force and sensation. The tooth will also appear normal and natural. 

Before beginning the procedure, your dental team will take dental X-rays of the tooth to fully assess the damage and ensure a root canal is appropriate. 

During the root canal procedure, patients are given a localized anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding area. 

The dentist will then place a small rubber dam over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it dry. 

They will then create a small access hole to remove the infected pulp, nerves, blood vessels, and other affected tissues within the tooth.

Next, the entire interior of the pulp chamber will be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and shaped before being filled with a flexible dental material known as gutta-percha. 

Finally, the tooth is sealed with a dental filling to prevent bacteria from getting back into the tooth. And in most cases, a dental crown is placed to protect the tooth and restore the bite. This may entail a second visit a couple of weeks later to have a custom-made crown.

Patients typically find the procedure causes no more discomfort than a simple filling. However, you may find your mouth is a bit more sore or numb for a couple of hours after a root canal, and you may experience some mild discomfort for a day or two. Many people report feeling relief after a root canal as the pain and soreness from the infection are removed.

While you’ll want to avoid eating until the mouth is no longer numb, a root canal should not interfere with your work or school schedule. If you notice throbbing pain or increased symptoms that can’t be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, please contact your dental team immediately. 

How Long Does a Root Canal Procedure Take (and how can you better prepare)

Root canals can typically be completed in one to two appointments, taking between 30 and 60 minutes. Larger teeth (such as molars) with multiple roots can take longer—up to an hour and a half.

To better prepare for your procedure:

  • Take any medications as prescribed: you may, for instance, be given antibiotics or anti-inflammatories in the days before the appointment to help fight the infection in the tooth.
  • Avoid smoking or using any tobacco products for several days before and after your appointment as tobacco can interfere with the mouth’s ability to heal.
  • Before the procedure, eat a healthy, satiating meal as you may not be able to eat for several hours after the appointment due to the numbness in the mouth. 

Costs of a Root Canal Procedure

The cost of a root canal can vary depending on which tooth is infected and how much your insurance covers. Root canals tend to cost a bit more than a traditional filling, but they’re still typically less costly than an extraction and replacement (such as with an implant or bridge). 

How Long Does a Root Canal Last?

With proper treatment and care, a root canal helps you maintain your healthy, natural smile and limits the need for future dental work. In fact, for most teeth, a root canal can last for the life of the tooth. Benefits are immediate and long-lasting and include:

  • Preventing the infection from spreading to other teeth
  • Relief from the pain, sensitivity, and other symptoms
  • Reduced risk of damage to the jawbone
  • No need to have the tooth extracted.

If you are experiencing pain, sensitivity to hot or cold, or have a chipped or damaged tooth, contact our High Point Cosmetic Dentistry Practice at (366) 841-0000 to make an appointment today to help you determine the best treatment for your teeth and mouth and see if you may need a root canal procedure.