If you just learned that you or a family member needs a root canal, chances are you have some questions. You are not alone. Patients frequently ask questions about root canals and endodontic treatment.
We hope this guide on root canal FAQs helps you make informed and empowered choices. It isn’t a substitute for personalized dental care from a skilled professional.
The following root canal FAQs contains some of the most common questions we receive. If you have other questions, please ask our dental team. We love answering our patient’s questions because it is the first step towards a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Top 11 Root Canal FAQs
What is a Root Canal?
This is the first question many patients ask. A root canal is a treatment where a dentist opens the infected or decayed tooth and removes the pulp. Next, they thoroughly clean and disinfect inside the tooth and root canal system. The dentist then refills the tooth and reseals it. Depending on the strength and location of the tooth, a crown or other form of protection may also be placed.
Either a dentist or an endodontist may perform a root canal procedure.
How Likely is a Root Canal to Be Successful?
Most root canals are successful and provide the patient relief from pain and infection. Every year, endodontists and dentists in the United States perform over 15 million root canals. More than 95% of those root canals are effective and save the natural tooth.
What is an Endodontist?
An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in endodontic treatments like root canals. According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), an endodontist usually completes 25 root canals each week compared to a general dentist who usually performs just two root canals per week. In addition to earning a general dentistry license, an endodontist also completes an additional two-year+ specialized training program and certification.
Are Root Canals Painful?
For some reason, root canals received an unearned, unfair reputation for causing pain. In fact, most patients discover that the discomfort is similar to a routine cavity filling. Endodontists are experts at relieving pain. In fact, once the recovery process is complete, most patients return to a life without the pain that led them to receive a root canal in the first place.
Patients usually start to experience relief from the tenderness in 24 to 48 hours after a root canal.
Why Do People Need Root Canals?
If someone needs a root canal, the affected tooth is deeply damaged. Here are a few possibilities:
- Severe tooth decay and cavities run deep into the inner layers of the tooth,
- Infection and inflammation reached the nerves within the tooth’s pulp.
- The tooth is cracked, deeply fractured, or broken.
How Do I Know If I Need a Root Canal?
Here are a few possible signs that you might need a root canal:
- Swelling and tenderness in the gums near a specific tooth.
- Severe pain or a toothache while biting down or chewing,
- A recurring pimple on the gums near the tooth.
- Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
- Tooth discoloration.
Of course, other oral health concerns may cause some of these issues, so see a dentist for an examination and discuss your symptoms, any pain you experience, and your concerns.
How Long Does It Take To Feel Normal After A Root Canal?
After a root canal, most patients feel mild discomfort or tenderness while healing. Taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever like ibuprofen usually helps. Sometimes a patient also needs a crown or other form of restoration. If that applies, the healing process will be complete after treatment is complete.
What Happens During a Root Canal Procedure?
A dentist or endodontist will make a small opening in the tooth to access the inner pulp. Next, the dental professional will remove all the affected pulp and tissue then thoroughly clean and disinfect inside the tooth. Next, your endodontist will use special dental-grade material to refill the tooth then will seal it. Next, you will receive a filling to seal the hole.
Endodontists are experts at managing pain as well as in performing root canals.
What Other Options Do I Have?
If you need a root canal, that is the best option for preserving your natural tooth. The other option is tooth extraction.
If left untreated, the infection will progress. The following may occur:
- The swelling may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head.
- Bone loss near the root and eventually tooth loss.
- Infection around the tooth and gum.
- A hole may develop on the side of the tooth.
- More pain and more intense pain.
Why Do You Strive to Save the Natural Tooth?
Endodontists are passionate about saving natural teeth and restoring wellbeing and oral health. Nothing looks and feels the same as the natural teeth.
How Can I Prevent the Need For a Root Canal?
The best prevention is to follow your dentist’s oral health recommendations, including:
- Gently brush your teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Use toothpaste containing fluoride to strengthen the teeth.
- Floss your teeth daily to clean between the teeth and below the gumline.
- Wear a mouthguard while sleeping if you grind your teeth.
- Limit consumption of sugary and acidic foods or beverages. Some of these foods are healthy; try to confine enjoying those foods to mealtimes before you brush your teeth.
- See your dentist as recommended for a professional examination, imaging, and cleaning.
- Seek prompt treatment for any oral health problems. Early treatment often prevents the need for more invasive treatment later.
Next Steps: Schedule a Consultation
If your dentist informs you that you may need a root canal, consider seeking care from an endodontist. The team at Ballantyne Endodontics feels privileged to help Charlotte-area residents keep their natural teeth while restoring oral health.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation or to learn how to request a referral for endodontic services.