7 Things to Know About Root Canals

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • Dentist explaining x-rays to patient
    Get the Facts
    If you’ve been told you need a root canal, you may be more than a little anxious. Root canals—the removal of infected soft tissue inside a tooth, called pulp—have a bad reputation. And it may be tempting to delay the procedure. But take heart: root canals aren’t as scary as you might think. Here’s what you should know before the procedure.
  • Toothache
    1. Don’t Be Fooled If Your Pain Goes Away
    An infection of the tooth’s pulp, which is composed of nerves and blood vessels, can be painful. But if this pain goes away, don’t assume your tooth has healed. As the infection progresses, the pulp begins to die and pain often disappears. But other symptoms—like oozing pus or facial swelling—will occur as the infection travels to the roots. Don’t delay treatment based on symptoms.
  • medication
    2. Antibiotics Aren’t an Alternative Treatment
    It may seem reasonable to believe that antibiotics will help your condition because the medicine treats bacterial infections. But antibiotics only work by reaching the site of infection through your blood. Because the bacteria that cause pulp infections are located within the root canal system, antibiotics can’t get where they need to go to work.
  • Patient in reception area
    3. The Procedure Shouldn’t Be Painful
    Many people think of pain when they consider having a root canal. But the procedure is designed to alleviate pain, not cause it. Before the root canal, you’ll be given a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and surrounding area. The entire procedure should feel similar to having a cavity filled. If you’re concerned about pain, talk about it with your dentist.
  • the components of ra 2
    4. You May Be a Sore Afterward
    Although the procedure itself shouldn’t be painful, you may be a little sore or sensitive for a few days afterward. Simple pain relief medication can help. Ask your dentist whether over-the-counter or prescription medication is right for you.
  • couple-using-laptop-whilst-having-breakfast-in-kitchen
    5. You Should Protect Your Tooth
    After your dentist or endodontist, a dentist that specializes in dental pulp health, performs the procedure, he or she will often place a temporary filling in the tooth. If so, your dentist will restore your tooth with a permanent filling or crown at another appointment. Before it’s fully restored, it’s important to protect your tooth because it’s susceptible to fracture. Ask your doctor how to protect it, such as not biting or chewing with it.
  • Brush Your Teeth
    6. Your Tooth Isn’t Invincible
    Unfortunately, having a root canal doesn’t guard your tooth from cavities and gum disease. But the tooth should last a long time if you care for it properly. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss, and visit your dentist regularly. Crowns typically last 10 to 15 years.
  • smiling woman
    7. It Can Protect Your Smile
    If the soft tissue of your tooth is infected, the only alternative to a root canal is removing the tooth. But it’s important to keep as many of your teeth as possible. Among other problems, pulling one tooth can cause other teeth to shift, changing your bite and your smile.
7 Things to Know About Root Canals
  1. Root Canals. Wisconsin Dental Association. http://www.wda.org/your-oral-health/adults/root-canals
  2. Root Canals Explained. American Association of Endodontists. http://www.aae.org/patients/treatments-and-procedures/root-canals/root-canals-explained.aspx
  3. Root Canal Treatment. Canadian Dental Association. http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/procedures/root_canal/
  4. Root canal treatment. NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Root-canal-treatment/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  5. Root canal treatment - When it is used. NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Root-canal-treatment/Pages/Whenitshouldbedone.aspx
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Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 31
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.