7 Things to Know About Root Canals


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 smile.

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