What Happens During Root Canal Therapy?

People dread the term “root canal” yet the average person is unaware of what this dental procedure is really all about. A root canal refers to either the inner portion of the tooth between the roots and the pulp or the dental procedure performed to eliminate the infected portion of the tooth. Once the infected part of the tooth is removed, the pain dissipates. This fact is contrary to popular opinion that it is the actual root canal procedure itself that causes the pain. Rather, the root canal procedure is meant to eliminate the pain. The truth is root canal procedures have a bad rap. Let’s take a closer look at this grossly mischaracterized dental procedure.

About Root Canals

The root canal in the tooth houses blood vessels and nerves. When an adult tooth juts out from the gums, the nerve in the tooth no longer serves a purpose aside from sensing alterations in temperature. The removal of the nerve from an infected tooth is a component of the standard procedure performed to treat tooth pain spurred by an infection within tooth pulp. The nerve is also removed in instances of significant tooth decay. Chips or cracks in the teeth can also spur tooth decay and subsequent root canal discomfort. Those who have extensive tooth decay, tooth trauma from prior dental procedures, considerable fillings and/or chips or cracks in the teeth are at a heightened risk for root canal problems and root canal therapy1.

The Root Canal Treatment

Root canal procedures are comprised of multiple steps. This dental procedure removes the infected portion of tooth pulp. In some cases, the nerve in the tooth is also removed in addition to the pulp. The tooth is then sealed to guard against subsequent problems and pain. The dentist will likely take an x-ray to gauge the degree to which the infection has spread. The dentist will apply a local anesthetic so your mouth is numbed. This anesthetic will prevent the onset of pain during the root canal procedure. The dentist will apply a rubber sheet referred to as the rubber dam around the tooth so it remains dry. The next step is to drill a hole in order to access the tooth in question. The dentist uses specialized dental tools to eliminate the damaged pulp tissue and nerve.

The removal of the infected material from the tooth sets the stage for a temporary filling that protects against pain. In some cases, a sealing is the better option. Sometimes, the tooth can be sealed on the same day as the root canal procedure. The overarching aim is to minimize or even completely prevent root canal pain from the point at which the operation is performed until the custom-tailored crown is prepared. The sealing of a tooth that has undergone root canal therapy requires the placement of a rubber compound in the root canal where the decayed portion was eliminated. The dentist then places a filling across the access hole.

Completing the Root Canal Procedure

The root canal procedure is completed with the application of a crown, filling or, in some cases, a different tooth restoration. The dentist might end up leaving the tooth open to permit the drainage of additional material from the tooth prior to the filling and sealing. The dentist might also place a temporary filling within the tooth to guard the area as the infected portion gradually drains away. Do not worry about this procedure! It is no more painful than having a tooth filled.

After the Root Canal

A return visit to the dentist will be necessary after the root canal procedure is performed. The next appointments are typically in a few days or up to a full week after the root canal procedure. This appointment provides the dentist with the opportunity to place a specialized composite filling in the middle of the tooth. If your tooth has undergone a root canal, it will almost certainly require a crown or another form of tooth restoration to shield the remnants of the tooth and protect against additional pain.

The Prospect of Pain Following a Root Canal Procedure

Though there is the prospect for some sensitivity and pain following a root canal procedure, the minimal discomfort will gradually dissipate in due time. You can do your part to keep your mouth in the best possible condition and ultimately minimize pain by adhering to your usual oral health care routine. This oral care routine will help decrease subsequent tooth pain and keep your crown clean, beautiful and firmly in position across the long haul.

If you find your teeth are more sensitive following the root canal procedure, do not panic. Try switching to a toothbrush with the softest possible bristles. Incorporate oral health care products specifically created for those plagued by sensitive teeth and you will likely notice an improvement in due time.

Signs Root Canal Therapy Might be Necessary

Now that you know there is nothing to fear if the time comes when you need root canal therapy, your focus should turn to the symptoms that lead to this notorious dental procedure. There are an array of symptoms that indicate the potential for root canal therapy. Those who experience tooth and/or gum tenderness or swelling, considerable tooth pain, sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures, pimples or abscesses on the gums or tooth trauma are candidates for root canal therapy.

Furthermore, if decay moves to the tooth pulp, root canal therapy will likely be necessary. Keep in mind that tooth pulp is living tissue within the teeth. Decay should not reach this portion of the tooth. If the dentist determines the interior of the tooth has been compromised and advises root canal therapy, you can move forward with the procedure in full confidence.

Contact Pleasant Hill Dental to Schedule an Appointment

Do you suspect you need root canal therapy or another dental treatment or procedure? If you are unsure about whether you need a root canal procedure, you should still schedule an appointment with our dentist for an oral health evaluation and cleaning. You can reach Pleasant Hill Dental at (925) 692-2010. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment and learn more about our oral health services.


  1. https://www.pleasanthilldental.com/Root-Canal-Treatment

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