What is a root canal?

The purpose of a root canal treatment is to clean, disinfect and seal off the inside of a tooth. It allows an infected or permanently damaged tooth to be saved instead of extracted.

As dentists, we always hope we can save teeth instead of removing them.

Of course, sometimes teeth can be damaged beyond repair. In that case, the only option is removal. However, if a tooth has enough of its natural structure to be saved with a root canal, we nearly always view that as the best possible treatment.

What is the appointment like?

You’ll probably be surprised to hear that the vast majority of root canal treatments are completely comfortable!

Modern local anesthetics are wonderful and in most cases we are able to achieve profound numbness before starting the root canal treatment.

Root canals can range from simple to complex. Simple ones usually take 30-60 minutes, while more complex ones can take 90 minutes or longer.

Most root canals can be completed in one appointment but some must be spread out over two appointments.

Is my tooth going to hurt after the root canal?

You will likely experience some discomfort after the numbing wears off. We recommend taking ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen for a couple of days after root canal treatment. The tooth might be tender to bite on as well, but that will subside as the area around the tooth heals.

How successful are root canal treatments?

In general, root canals are very successful. Studies have shown success rates of anywhere from 86-98% overall.

How will I know if I need a root canal?

The dentist will examine the area of concern and likely take two different types of x-ray. They will then perform testing on several teeth in the area and narrow the problem down to one tooth.

We will discuss the benefits and risks as well as the long-term prognosis for the tooth.

If we do recommend a root canal treatment, it is up to you whether you choose to pursue it or not. Extraction is always an option if you would rather do that.

What is the next step after my root canal?

A root canal is only the first of three steps to restoring your tooth back to health.

The second step is called a core buildup, which is a large filling that provides structure and fills the gap in the tooth created by the root canal treatment.

The third and final step is the crown. Having a crown placed over a root canal-treated tooth is extremely important in order to protect the tooth and add strength back.

We always want to check on the healing and success of the root canal treatment over the following months and years. This usually involves taking an occasional x-ray of the tooth for close examination.

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