What to Expect From a Root Canal Procedure

What to Expect From a Root Canal Procedure

let's uncover what to expect from a root canal procedure

Whether you have a long history of great teeth or a not-so-stellar one, you’ve probably heard of a root canal. Now that you’ve been told you need one, though, you’re much more interested in the root canal procedure’s specifics and want to be prepared and to understand what to expect from a root canal procedure. 

In the past, root canals have garnered a reputation for being painful and risky. With the advancements of modern dentistry, though, the procedure has been rendered virtually painless and recovery times are quicker than ever. 

That said, there are still a few things you should know before you show up the day of your appointment. Details regarding how the procedure works, what it entails, and what (if any) aftercare is involved are all crucial tidbits you should read up on. 

In this article, we’ll cover all of the above, plus provide a step-by-step overview of what to anticipate. Here’s what to expect from a root canal procedure: 

What is a Root Canal procedure?

Root canals are considered the last-ditch care option for decaying teeth before extraction. It is generally saved for when a tooth’s pulp tissue (the deepest part of the tooth) becomes infected. At this stage, the tooth can no longer be saved by traditional methods like fillings. 

Pulp tissue can become infected for several reasons beyond inadequate dental hygiene. Events like trauma or illness can easily cause someone to need a root canal procedure. That said, this level of infection doesn’t happen overnight. 

Why Do I Need a Root Canal procedure?

Ultimately, it’s up to your dentist to determine if a root canal is the right course of action for your teeth. He or she will take a look at your x-rays and examine the tooth in person to make a final determination on whether a root canal is necessary. 

Depending on what has caused your tooth damage, though, you’ve likely been experiencing symptoms for a while. Some of the tell-tale signs that a root canal might be in your future are: 

  • Swelling in the gums around the tooth
  • General tooth sensitivity in response to food, drink, or temperature
  • Severe pain while chewing
  • Swelling in the cheek or jaw
  • Pus discharge from the gums in severe cases
  • Tooth discoloration
  • A cracked or broken tooth

In most cases, just one of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily indicate the need for a root canal procedure (but are still definitely reasons to visit your dental practitioner). If you start experiencing two or more, however, you should make it a point to see your dentist immediately. The faster you address them, the less likely you’ll be to need a root canal or extraction. But if you do end up needing a root canal, keep reading to see what 

How Does a Root Canal procedure Fix My Tooth?

Root canals target the tooth’s infected pulp tissue and aim to remove it. During the procedure, a dentist or orthodontist will carve into the center of your tooth from the top and use various tools to clean out any infected or decayed tissue. Once that’s done, your tooth will be sealed with a crown to prevent infection from recurring and to protect its sensitive nerves. 

What a Root Canal Procedure Looks Like, Step-By-Step

A root canal is considered a minor dental procedure, and is relatively common. In fact, according to the American Association of Endodontists, over 15 million root canals are performed in America each year.

When you go in to get your root canal, you can expect the procedure to take between 30 to 60 minutes, barring any complications. Of course depending on your dentist, your health situation and the exact causes of your tooth problems, exactly what to expect from a root canal procedure may vary slightly.  Here’s what will happen during that time: 


  • First, your tooth will be completely numbed using local anesthesia. Your dentist will use a long, thin needle to inject a numbing agent into strategic places inside your mouth. This will numb the area around the tooth as well as the tooth itself so you don’t feel any discomfort during the procedure. 

  • Next, your dentist will drill a small hole into your tooth’s root chamber to expose the canals inside. This will help them better determine where the infection is located and how best to clean it out. 

  • Your dentist will then clean out the infection. Using a series of specialized files, all of the infection in your tooth’s pulp tissue will be cleaned out. During this step, it’s common to experience unpleasant odors, as this is the decaying tissue inside your tooth being removed.

  • It’s time to reconstruct your tooth. Once the dental professional performing the procedure has completely emptied the tooth of decaying tissue, they will begin to smooth out and reshape the canals. Then, they will go back in with a biocompatible material to fill in and seal the canals. This will protect the tooth from any further damage or recurrent infection. 

  • You’ll receive a crown. As the final step in the procedure, a customized dental crown will be placed on your tooth using a quick-harden material. A metal post may be used to anchor the crown in place. 

Before it dries, your dentist will mold the crown to align with your other teeth. You may be asked to bite down to test the crown’s fit before it dries completely. If needed, they’ll make adjustments to the crown’s shape before completing the procedure. It will be firm enough to eat with when you leave the office, but it will harden completely over the next 24 hours. 

Despite a root canal being one of the most dreaded dental treatment plans out there, getting one is actually a relatively painless process. If you do feel any pain or discomfort during any of the above steps, be sure to let your dentist know so they can provide you with more anesthesia. 


Root Canal procedure Aftercare

Most root canals won’t hurt much, even after the numbing agent has worn off. Depending on your tooth’s condition, you may even feel better immediately afterward since your tooth no longer houses decaying tissue. Any discomfort you do experience as a result of the procedure can easily be taken care of using over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol™. 

After your treatment, it’s important to keep the area clean. Brush and floss around it like usual and avoid chewing directly on the tooth. It’s also in your best interest to eat soft foods for a few days to avoid aggravating the area and slowly reintroduce solid food as your comfort level increases. 

All in all, your root canal recovery should take less than a week. If you have any severe pain or discomfort that lasts past a week, you should contact your healthcare provider as this can be a sign that the root canal has failed. 

Don’t worry, though; this doesn’t happen often. Root canals have a 98% success rate. 

Final Thoughts

If you notice any symptoms of a potentially infected tooth (such as swelling, pain, or bleeding) you should contact your dental professional immediately. The sooner we can locate and treat an infection, the better your prognosis will be. In fact, infections that are caught early on won’t require a root canal at all! 

If you are scheduled for a root canal procedure, though, don’t worry. Modern medicine has come a long way in the past several years, so this method of treatment is completely safe and won’t cause much discomfort. 

If you think you need a root canal or suspect an infected tooth and live in the northern Georgia or Atlanta area, don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule your next dental checkup. 

Remember: a healthy mouth is a happy mouth! 


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