Root Canals - What to Expect During a Root Canal

A root canal is a dental procedure to fix a tooth that cannot be filled or restored any other way. If the tooth is severely decayed into the pulp of the tooth and / or infected, root canal treatment is usually the only option to save the tooth. Your regular dentist might do the root canal, but he / she may send you to an endodontist.

What to Expect

 After the endodontist numbs your tooth, he / she may use a rubber dam to keep the tooth area dry and free of saliva. A rubber dam is simply a piece of rubber that fits over the tooth and isolates it from the rest of the mouth. The dentist will then prepare the tooth by drilling an opening. After the dentist removes all of the decay and bacteria, he / she will use root canal files to clean out the canals (roots) of the tooth.

Root canal files are small instruments that increase in diameter and fit down into the canals enabling the dentist to remove the pulp of the tooth.

Some dentists like to wait a week or two before they finish a root canal, to make sure that there is no discomfort or further infection. If this is the case, the dentist will thoroughly clean the tooth and usually put some soothing medicine inside and seal it closed with a temporary filling material.

At the final stage of a root canal treatment, the dentist will usually fill the canals with a rubber filling material called gutta percha. After the canals are filled, a regular filling will be placed in the tooth.

Facts to Consider

 After a tooth has had a root canal, it can become dry and brittle and easy to break. A crown is usually recommended to restore the tooth properly and minimize potential for cracks. Although the cost of a root canal is extensive, the only other alternative to a root canal is the removal of the tooth. If the tooth is removed, a bridge, implant or partial is recommended to fill in the gap because the other teeth can become crooked by shifting around.

Most root canals are successful (about 95%), but there is always the chance of a new infection, which could require another root canal or removal of the tooth.


 A root canal doesn’t have to be scary if you know what to expect. Express any concerns or questions you might have with your dentist and be sure to keep up with regular check up appointments, because a root canal is an investment that should be protected.

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