Most people dread going to the dentist, but a root canal procedure is often seen as the worst possible dental appointment. For some people, the mere mention of the word often conjures up images of long and painful procedures.

But the fact is, a root canal is not always an ordeal. In fact, root canals are common procedures that are usually not painful. In many cases, root canal therapy is a necessary and life-saving measure. 

This post will provide an overview of when a root canal procedure is necessary and what to expect from the process.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a treatment used to save a tooth that has been damaged by decay or infection. The procedure involves removing the damaged tissue from inside the tooth, cleaning and disinfecting the area, and then filling and sealing the tooth. In some cases, a crown (an artificial cover for the tooth) may also be placed over the tooth to protect it from further damage.

When is a root canal treatment needed?

A root canal procedure is typically needed when the nerve of a tooth has been damaged by decay or infection. The damage to the nerve can cause pain, sensitivity to temperature, and swelling. In some cases, the damage may not be immediately apparent, but it can still lead to problems down the road.

If left untreated, the decay or infection can spread to the surrounding tissues and cause further damage. In severe cases, it can even lead to death. A root canal therapy is often the best way to prevent this from happening.

What are the signs that a root canal treatment is needed?

There are a few signs that may indicate that a root canal procedure is needed. These include:

  • Severe toothache that does not go away with over-the-counter pain medication
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Swelling in the gums around the affected tooth
  • Tenderness when pressure is applied to the tooth
  • Discoloration of the tooth

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a dental professional as soon as possible. They will be able to determine if a root canal procedure is necessary and provide you with more information about the process.

Can a root canal treatment be avoided?

In some cases, a root canal procedure may be avoided if the damage to the tooth is not too severe. For example, if the decay is caught early enough, it may be possible to treat it with a filling instead of a root canal. However, once the infection or decay has reached the tooth’s nerve, a root canal is typically the only option.

How long does a root canal procedure last?

A root canal procedure usually takes one to two hours to complete. However, the length of the procedure will depend on several factors, such as the severity of the damage to the tooth and the number of teeth that need to be treated. 

How is a root canal treatment done?

A root canal procedure is typically performed in one or two visits to the dentist. During the visits, the dentist or endodontist will perform the root canal procedure using the following treatment steps.

Step 1: Anesthetic

The first step of the procedure is to numb the area around the tooth so that you will not feel any pain. This is done with a local anesthetic, which is injected into the gums.

Step 2: Isolation

Once the anesthetic has taken effect, the dentist will isolate the tooth by placing a rubber dam (a small, thin sheet of rubber) around it. This will keep your tooth clean and free of saliva during the procedure.

Step 3: Access

The next step is to create a small opening in the tooth so that the dentist can access the damaged nerve. This is usually done with a drill, but sometimes a laser may be used instead.

Step 4: Removal

Once the opening has been created, the dentist will remove the damaged pulp and any other decayed or infected tissue inside the tooth. 

Step 5: Cleaning

After all of the damaged tissue has been removed, the inside of the tooth will be cleaned and disinfected to prevent the infection from coming back.

Step 6: Filling

The next step is to fill the empty space inside the tooth with a material called gutta-percha. This helps to strengthen the tooth and keep it from breaking.

Step 7: Sealing

Once the gutta-percha has been placed, the opening in the tooth will be sealed with a material called dental cement. The function of dental cement is to protect the inside of the tooth from bacteria and saliva.

Step 8: Restoration

The final step is to restore the tooth to its original shape and function. This is usually done with a crown (an artificial cover for the tooth). However, in some cases, a filling may be used instead.

After the procedure, you will likely need to take over-the-counter pain medication for a few days to help with any discomfort. Your dentist will also give you instructions on caring for your tooth. It is important to follow these instructions carefully to ensure that the root canal treatment is successful.

Additionally, it’s also vital that you brush and floss regularly and see your dentist for regular checkups to ensure that your tooth remains healthy. Nonetheless, if you have any questions or concerns about the procedure, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our dental team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Recovering From Root Canal Treatment

After the procedure, you may experience some soreness in your jaw. This is normal and should go away within a few days. You may also have some swelling, which can be treated with ice packs.

It is important to take it easy for the first few days after the procedure. Avoid strenuous activities, such as exercise, and try to eat soft foods.

You should also avoid chewing on hard foods, including candy or ice, for the first few days. This can cause the tooth to become irritated and may lead to pain.

If you have any pain or discomfort after the procedure, be sure to take the pain medication that your dentist prescribed.

Follow Up After a Root Canal Procedure

After a root canal procedure, it is important to see your dentist for follow-up visits. This helps ensure that the procedure was successful and that there are no problems with the tooth. 

It is also important to practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing and flossing your teeth every day and seeing your dentist for regular checkups. By taking these steps, you can help to ensure that your root canal procedure is successful and that your tooth remains healthy for many years to come.

Risk of a Root Canal Procedure

As with any medical procedure, there are some risks associated with a root canal. These include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Pain

However, these risks are typically minor and can be easily managed by a dentist. Nevertheless, the most common complication is that the tooth may become sensitive to hot or cold temperatures after the procedure. 

This sensitivity is usually temporary and will go away within a few weeks. However, in rare cases, the infection may return, or the tooth may become damaged and need to be extracted.

If you have been experiencing pain in a tooth, it is important to see an experienced dentist as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the sooner you seek treatment, the more likely it is that the procedure will be successful.

Benefits of a Root Canal Procedure

A root canal procedure is often the best way to save a tooth that has been damaged by decay or infection. It can also help to prevent the spread of infection to other teeth.

In some cases, a root canal procedure may also be used to treat pain that is not caused by decay or infection. This is known as pulpalgia. Pulpalgia can be caused by a number of things, including trauma to the tooth, a cracked tooth, or a tooth that has been exposed to extreme temperatures.

A root canal procedure is usually successful in treating the problem and relieving the pain. However, in some cases, the procedure may not be successful, and the tooth may need to be removed.

If you are considering a root canal procedure, be sure to talk to an experienced dentist. They will be able to assess the damage to your tooth and determine if the procedure is right for you. 


A root canal procedure is often seen as a last resort when it comes to dental care. However, in many cases, it is the best way to save a tooth that has been damaged by decay or infection. If you think you may need a root canal, talk to a dental professional at Caldwell Dental Care about your options.

By Manali