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Top 5 Root Canal Questions & Answers

August 10, 2020
Female patient asking male dentist about x-ray during dental exam

There are many dental procedures that get a bad rap, but it’s hard to think of any treatment more dreaded than the root canal. It’s even become shorthand for any experience that is unpleasant— “it’s like getting a root canal” or “I’d rather have a root canal” are two expressions you’ve probably heard many times. 

Endodontists specialize in root canals, so we’ve heard it all before. We also get lots of questions about what root canals entail and if they’re really as bad as everyone says. Here’s the scoop.

Is a root canal painful?

With modern endodontic techniques, advanced technology, and local anesthesia, root canals are not painful. The experience is not much different from getting a dental filling—it’s just a little bit longer. You may feel some discomfort because it’s never exactly a pleasant experience having someone working in your mouth for an extended amount of time, but pain? Probably not.

After your root canal procedure, you are likely to have some soreness surrounding the affected tooth. This is usually minimal and can be alleviated with cold compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers.

What happens during a root canal?

First, we open up the affected tooth so we can access the pulp. The pulp is removed, the chamber is cleaned, and antibiotics are applied, if needed, to ensure that reinfection does not occur. To replace the pulp, we fill the chamber with a rubber-like material and then a temporary restoration is put in place until your permanent restoration is ready to be bonded to your tooth.

How long does a root canal take?

Assuming there are no abnormalities in your root structure, you can expect your root canal to take about 90 minutes.

Do I need a crown after a root canal?

Most patients need a crown after a root canal. A crown covers the remaining healthy tooth structure left behind after a root canal, protecting it from damage and reinfection. Sometimes, though, an inlay, onlay, or even a dental filling can be used to restore the tooth structure after a root canal.

Should I have a root canal or an extraction?

Unfortunately, many patients are so scared by the idea of a root canal that they ask to have their tooth extraction instead, thinking that simply removing the tooth altogether is a preferable solution. This isn’t the case—preserving your natural tooth is always going to be the best case scenario.

Once your tooth is extracted, you have two options: you can replace it or you can leave it be. Replacement with a dental implant or bridge is time consuming and costly, and implants in particular are not always covered by dental insurance. If you choose not to replace your tooth, the supporting bone structure that once held the tooth in place will begin to break down. This weakens your bite and it can even cause a prematurely aged appearance. Your remaining teeth can begin to shift, become loose, and even fall out. All of these potential complications can be avoided with a simple root canal procedure.

Learn More about Root Canals

If you have questions about root canals, we have answers. Contact us today at one of our five locations to schedule an appointment.

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