Will my root canal hurt? What is a root canal? How is it done?

Most of my patients are scared of root canals because they do not know what to expect during the root canal procedure. I hope I can answer some of the questions and clear up some of the confussion surrounding the procedure.

What to expect during a root canal? What does the procedure consist of?

The process of root canal involves, opening up the tooth, removing the pulp of the tooth, cleaning out the bacteria from the insides of the roots of the tooth, and sealing up the roots of the tooth.

First, you will be numbed up in the area of the tooth that needs a root canal. Then, I will drill an access hole in your tooth to reach the canal or canals of the tooth (which are in the roots of your tooth where the nerve lives, some teeth just have one canal, some teeth have multiple canals). Then, I will use special tools to clean out the damaged nerve, pulp tissue, and bacterial particles from the canal (or canals) of the tooth. Once all the infected materials are removed, the canals will be filled with a rubber compound and sealed. Then, to cover the access hole in your tooth, a temporary filling will be placed. This is the entire process of the root canal. Most patients report that it feels just like getting a cavity filled.

If the tooth is severely infected or if I feel that all the infected materials have not been removed, I may place a temporary filling inside the tooth, without sealing the canals, and have the patient come back for a second or third visit to complete the root canal.

Once the root canal procedure is finished, the tooth will need a permanent restoration to make it usable once again: a filling, a crown, or other type of restoration. (Check our future blog articles for more information on restorations following a root canal.) 

How long will it take to do the root canal?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. It depends on many factors, such as, for example, whether the patient get numb easily, how difficult or how easy it is to access the tooth, how many roots are in the tooth, and whether there is a lot of infection. I always tell my patients to plan for 1.5 hours in the office for the root canal procedure (including the check in and check out time). However, most of the patients are finished well before the 1.5 hour mark.

Will the root canal hurt?

If you have been prescribed root canal procedure, I always recommend having the procedure done right away, preferably before you begin to experience pain. Once the tooth becomes severely infected, the patient might experience more and more discomfort, both during the procedure and in general. Having said that, typically, there is little to no pain during the root canal procedure. Furthermore, if the patient is already in a lot of pain before the start of the root canal procedure, chances are that he or she will feel much better right after. 

Author
Dr. Anna Fromzel Dr. Anna Fromzel is a general dentist with a degree from NYU college of dentistry. She has been in the dental profession for over 25 years. She is the owner and the head dentist of a successful family practice, Family Dental Care of Stamford, located in Stamford, Connecticut. Dr. Anna Fromzel is passionate about dental and patient care. Being in family practice, she is knowledgeable in a broad spectrum of dental issues from infants to elderly needs.

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