Getting a root canal does not have to be a scary process.

Few dental procedures are as misunderstood as a root canal. Often the subject of one-liner jokes about misery, these treatments have unfairly earned a bad rap over the years. In reality, getting a root canal can be one of the most beneficial and restorative steps you can take to improve your dental health.

Today, we’re here to set the record straight on how a root canal works, what to expect in the chair, and more!

What is a root canal?

If your tooth is badly decayed or infected, your dentist may recommend a root canal. During this process, your dentist will remove the nerve and pulp of your tooth. Then, they will clean and seal the inside to prevent further damage.

If left untreated, the damaged pulp or nerve tissue surrounding your tooth could break down over time, allowing bacteria to invade and multiply within the pulp chamber of your tooth. If this happens, it can lead to a tooth infection or painful tooth abscess.

An abscess is a tender pocket of pus that forms at the ends of your tooth roots. If one forms, it signals that the infection has become severe and has entered the canal of your tooth root. Other health concerns that can arise from an abscess include:

  • Swelling in your face, head, or neck
  • Tooth bone loss near the tip of the root
  • Drainage into your gums, cheek, or skin

Understanding this, the necessity of a root canal becomes more apparent. But, wait! Don’t you need that tooth nerve? Not quite.

Once your tooth erupts through your gums, the only purpose its inner nerve serves is sensory. It’s there to help you distinguish between hot and cold, but it isn’t essential to your tooth’s overall health or function. Thus, it can be safely removed to help your tooth thrive after your procedure.

How much does a root canal cost?

Your dentist will be able to thoroughly survey the extent of your tooth damage and recommend the best route forward. This custom treatment plan will also include details on associated pricing, which will vary depending on the severity of your tooth decay and the specific tooth affected.

If you have dental insurance, most companies will cover all or a portion of this treatment.

How long does a root canal take?

A root canal can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes or more. Again, the length of time required to perform the treatment is associated with the severity of your condition.

How does the procedure work?

If you’re feeling a little anxious about your upcoming procedure, it can help to understand how the root canal process works.

First, your dentist or endodontist will take an X-ray of your tooth. This will allow them to see the shape of the root canals more clearly and identify any signs of infection.

After numbing your tooth with local anesthesia, the dentist will place a sheet of rubber (called a rubber dam) around your tooth. This helps to keep the area dry throughout the treatment. Then, your dentist will drill a small abscess into your tooth to remove the pulp, decayed nerve tissue, and any accumulated bacteria lurking inside.

Using specialized root canal files, your dentist will thoroughly clean out the area. When it’s clean and ready to be sealed, your dentist will flush the area with water or a sodium hypochlorite solution to flush away any lingering debris.

Sometimes, sealing can be done immediately following the cleaning. Other times, your dentist may wait a short while before closing your tooth back up. For instance, if you have a tooth infection, your dentist may place a little disinfecting medicine in the area and complete the steps once it’s cleared.

If you’re sent home without a crown, your dentist will place a temporary filling in your tooth’s exterior hole. This way, you can keep the area free of saliva and debris until you come back for your next visit.

At ADA Smile Place, we will put an Emax lab-created crown onto your tooth after your root canal. This is an all-porcelain crown that’s both beautiful and durable.

When would I need one?

It’s important to understand that root canals aren’t the only type of restorative dentistry services available.

There are myriad other treatments you can pursue, such as a dental crown, while your tooth is still relatively healthy. A crown can help you avoid a more extensive restoration down the road, including both root canals and dental implants. Although, if the damage is allowed to penetrate your tooth for a long enough period of time, a root canal is often recommended.

What are some of the circumstances that might necessitate this procedure? The following issues can lead to deep tooth decay, causing the nerve and pulp inside of your tooth to become infected, inflamed, or otherwise irritated:

  • Multiple dental procedures on a tooth
  • Large fillings in a tooth
  • A crack or chip in the tooth
  • Facial trauma

In any of these cases, a root canal can help provide much-needed relief from the symptoms of a decayed and troublesome tooth.

Do root canals hurt?

Due to their storied reputation, it’s easy to assume your root canal will be very painful. However, this procedure isn’t any more uncomfortable than having a conventional filling placed. During the initial recovery stage, you may experience slight discomfort and sensitivity, as your tissue is still inflamed from the treatment.

If you understand this but are still dreading your procedure, there are resources that can help.

At Ada Smile Place, we provide comfort dentistry services to help our patients feel more relaxed when they visit us. We also offer conscious sedation for those who suffer from dental anxiety. In addition to anxiolytic nitrous oxide, or happy gas, we can provide an innovative oral conscious sedation (OCS) solution.

Getting a Root Canal: Five Signs You Need One

Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? If so, it’s time to visit your dentist to see if it’s time to schedule a root canal.

  • Persistent tooth sensitivity (especially when exposed to heat or cold)
  • Sharp, intense pain when you bite or chew
  • Teeth that appear chipped or cracked
  • Swollen, irritated, or painful gums
  • Dark gums

Your dentist will be able to tell you if a root canal is the recommended treatment for your situation. In some cases, you can avoid this procedure as long as you catch and repair the issue early.

Conquer your root canal today!

Did your dentist recommend a root canal to help remove signs of damage and decay in your tooth? If so, you don’t have to run and hide. Despite the reputation that precedes them, these restorative treatments are surprisingly simple and more comfortable than you might imagine.

If you believe a root canal is in your future, schedule an appointment with us today.