Root Canal FAQs

What is a Root Canal?

Root Canal is a layman’s term for root canal therapy. Root canal therapy is necessary when the nerve inside the tooth becomes irreversibly damaged or infected. This irreversible damage is a result of combined injuries that occur over the life of the tooth (decay, trauma, multiple restorations). Root canal therapy is the removal of the entire nerve throughout the tooth (a tooth can have several roots and a canal or two within those roots), the cleaning and shaping of the canal system, and filling the canals with a root canal filling.

When do I need a Root Canal?

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold that lingers
  • Discomfort when chewing or biting
  • Dull ache or severe pain
  • Discomfort that wakes you up at night
  • Your dentist has diagnosed the need for treatment either by clinical exam or x-ray

If you answered yes to any of the above, you might very well need a root canal. Please call and schedule for an evaluation. Be aware not all teeth that are in need of root canal therapy will cause pain. It is possible to be pain-free and still need a root canal.

What will happen at my appointment?

We will examine the x-ray and the tooth, then you will receive a local anesthetic. An opening will be made in the crown of the tooth the nerve will be removed. Once the canals have been adequately cleaned and shaped, the canals will then be filled with a root canal filling. A temporary filling is then placed to close the opening. The tooth is then restored with a dental crown.

Will it hurt during the procedure?

With modern techniques and local anesthetic solutions it is rare to have any sensation in the tooth during treatment. For the first few days after treatment, It is normal for your tooth to be sensitive to biting. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications in order to control normal post-treatment discomfort.

Will it hurt afterward?

In most cases the distress will subside dramatically within the first 24-48 hours. Any sensitivity to cold, hot or even breathing air “in” will be gone after your visit. Nevertheless, you may experience mild discomfort to pressure that could last for several days after treatment. Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory analgesics such as ibuprofen (aka Advil, Motrin), naproxen (aka Aleve) or aspirin (aka Excedrin) usually relieves this discomfort. The most common predictor of post-treatment pain is pre-treatment pain. If the tooth is already hurting the root canal procedure will remove the cause and allow healing to begin. During the first 72 – 96 h we will prescribe an analgesic regimen that should allow you to begin healing pain-free.

The most common complaint is tenderness to touch, bite, tapping or chewing on the tooth. It is always best to chew on the other side until a permanent restoration replaces the temporary restoration.

Benefits of Root Canal Therapy Versus Extraction

The single most important benefit of root canal therapy is that you keep your tooth. Extraction may lead to other dental problems. For instance, drifting of teeth, bite problems, TMJ discomfort, and the need to treat adjacent teeth that do not otherwise need dental treatment in order to restore the missing tooth. No matter how effective modern tooth replacements are – and they can be very effective – nothing is a good as your natural tooth.

Learn More about Root Canals