Dr. Lavin discussing treatment with a patient

Being told you need a root canal can be a scary moment, both because tooth pain can be very uncomfortable and deciding to move forward with treatment can seem like a daunting step.

Walking through the root canal procedure and answering some common questions can help you understand your teeth and feel confident in choosing root canal treatment in an effort to retain your teeth.

First, it’s important to remember that millions of root canals are performed in the United States each year, and treatment technology continues to improve. This means that the stories you may have heard about root canals are no longer the way treatments are performed. Most patients now report that root canal treatments are very similar to having a cavity filled at the dentist.

Why do I need a root canal?

Root canal treatment is required when the pulp of your tooth is diseased or infected and will not recover its health. Some of the most common symptoms that indicate you might need a root canal are discussed in this post. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule a consult with your dentist.

What is an endodontist?

The word endodontist is formed from the Greek words “endo” (meaning “inside”) and “odont” (meaning “tooth”).  An endodontist is a dentist who completed a residency to specialize in treating the inside of the tooth.

Consulting with an experienced, trusted endodontist is a vital part of evaluating your tooth.  In some cases, a consultation appointment is needed to determine treatment options.  A consultation with an endodontist will include x-rays, clinical tests and conversations about your tooth. There are radiographic and clinical findings that indicate when a root canal is necessary.

What happens during root canal treatment?

Understanding exactly what happens during root canal treatment can make it a far more comfortable experience. Thankfully, Dr. Lavin and his team ensure the entire process is as simple and comfortable as possible.

For many patients, the most uncomfortable part of the treatment is simply having to keep their mouth open for a long time. The area around the root canal will be completely numbed using local anesthesia, so most root canal patients should feel no pain. Favorite music playlists, audio books or other digital distractions can help make keeping your mouth open a bit easier to manage.

After your tooth area is completely numbed, a rubber dam will be placed to ensure the tooth stays dry and clean. The endodontist will then open up the tooth and begin cleaning the canals inside the tooth. The infected pulp will be removed, and the endodontist will carefully shape and clean the canals. Finally, the canals will be filled and sealed and either a temporary restoration or permanent restoration will be placed in the tooth to seal and protect the root canal treatment.  Some teeth will require a crown to further protect the tooth.

What happens after treatment?

After treatment, it’s important to avoid biting directly on the treated tooth until a permanent crown is placed on the tooth. The permanent crown placed on the treated tooth is a rigid covering that protects the tooth by distributing chewing forces more equally around the tooth.

Some minor soreness and/or pain is normal after root canal treatment, but be sure to let your dentist or endodontist know if the pain is intense or lasts a long time after treatment. You and your dentist will want to continue observing the root canal treated tooth to ensure the continued health of the treated tooth.

Making your decision

For some people, root canals are an urgent treatment due to severe pain. For others, the infected pulp or damaged tooth are not yet causing pain. Regardless, a tooth requiring a root canal can become immensely painful very quickly. By understanding root canal treatment with Dr. Lavin and his team, you can make an educated and confident decision to restore the health of your tooth and mouth.