Patient Information   |   What Is a Root Canal?   |   What To Expect   |  Forms & Resources

What to Expect

The goal of root canal treatment is to relieve your pain—not cause more of it. At Dr. Lavin’s office, your comfort is our top priority. To help ease any concerns you may have about your experience, we’ve outlined what you can expect before, during and after your root canal procedure.

Before Treatment

Preparing for your treatment is simple. There is little that you have to do, but to help expedite the process, we do ask that you please print and fill out the patient registration, informed consent and financial policy forms before arriving. Our care team is eager to answer any questions that you may have before coming into our office, so please call us any time at (605) 334-7979

Endodontic consultation

In some cases, a consultation appointment may be necessary to evaluate your medical history and determine if endodontic treatment is needed. After this examination, Dr. Lavin will provide you with a recommended treatment plan, discuss your options and, if necessary, schedule an appointment for treatment.

Please Note: A parent or guardian must accompany any patient under the age of 18 to all appointments, including the endodontic consultation.

Endodontic treatment appointment

This is the appointment when the actual endodontic treatment is performed. In many cases, the consultation and treatment appointments are combined to minimize the number of trips needed.

Frequently asked questions about root canal treatment

No. Root canal treatment is not painful as many fear. You will actually be quite comfortable and at ease during your endodontic treatment. Dr. Lavin only works with one patient at a timegiving you his complete attention and focus to ensure a smooth and relaxed process. You’ll be gently reclined throughout the procedure and should not feel much pain or discomfort.

Most root canal therapies may be completed in one or two appointments, but restoring the tooth after root canal therapy may be necessary to ensure that the tooth functions properly. The appointments necessary to completely restore the tooth should not be considered part of the root canal process.

No. Because we only a use a local anesthetic, you will be able to drive yourself home after surgery. An endodontic treatment is no more debilitating than having a cavity filled.

No. Dr. Lavin will need to observe and localize the source of the pain and medication can mask the symptoms.

You should only take antibiotics if your referring dentist has determined them to be necessary.

Yes. With the exception of painkillers, you may continue with your prescriptions as usual.

You will be able to eat normally after your treatment, but we advise that you wait until the local anesthesia (numbing) has worn off so that you don’t bite your cheek or tongue. We also suggest avoiding sticky or chewy foods until any swelling or tenderness has gone away to allow for faster healing and less aggravation to the area.

During Treatment

The day of your root canal procedure should be a day you look forward to, as it means relief from your painful, sensitive tooth. We’ve crafted a pleasant and relaxing experience for you and trust that you will feel at ease under the gentle and professional care of Dr. Lavin.

“If it is possible to have a great root canal, I had one today. I have had others, and have never had this good of an experience. I was so relaxed, I almost fell asleep toward the end of the appointment. His assistant was also wonderful. Dr. Lavin called me tonight to check up on me and see how I was doing and if I needed anything else. Seriously, such a great doctor!”

The endodontic procedure

Most patients wonder what exactly happens during the root canal. Dr. Lavin will review your specific procedure with you prior to beginning treatment and answer any questions you may have. It is important to note that your treatment may not follow the same example procedure listed below.

  1. Dr. Lavin will administer a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and the surrounding area.
  2. He will gently isolate the tooth from the rest of the mouth using a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl.
  3. He will create a small opening through the chewing surface of the tooth to access the root canals and pulp chamber.
  4. He will use a series of small endodontic instruments to remove the infected or diseased pulp. Because the area is numb, this is a relatively painless process.
  5. Dr. Lavin will gently clean and reshape the inside of your tooth.
  6. He will use gutta-percha, a heated thermoplastic material that prevents reinfection in the canals, to fill and seal the canal space.
  7. A temporary or permanent filling will be placed into the access opening.

Once your procedure is complete, Dr. Lavin will provide specific instructions for preventing soreness and swelling. You will be referred to your dentist for further restoration.

Surgical endodontic therapies

Endodontic surgery includes any surgical procedure used to remove inflammation and/or infection from the roots and surrounding areas or to repair a given problem. If non-surgical endodontic therapies are ineffective, we may use an in-office surgical procedure called root end resection and root end filling to remove the root tip and seal the root canals with a filling in the end of the root.

Dr. Lavin is trained in micro-surgical endodontics and incorporates the use of Global™ surgical microscopes into his practice.

After Treatment

After your root canal treatment is completed, you will be on the road to freedom from pain and sensitivity.

A note and radiograph will be sent to your dentist, informing them that treatment has been completed.

If any questions or difficulties arise concerning your treatment, please do not hesitate to call us at (605) 334-7979.

Post-Treatment Care

Some discomfort is normal in the days following your appointment and should not affect at all a successful outcome of your treatment. Common discomfort may include soreness and swelling in the area of treatment and tenderness in your jaw.

To help prevent soreness and/or swelling, we recommend that you adhere to the following anti-inflammatory drug regimen, regardless of whether or not you are experiencing any discomfort. (Disregard the following if you’re allergic or sensitive to aspirin and/or ibuprofen.)

  • Take 600 mg ibuprofen 4 times a day or 440 mg of naproxen sodium 2 times a day for 4 days after treatment. (If you are unable to take ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or aspirin, then acetaminophen is the only alternative.)
  • If ibuprofen or naproxen sodium alone will not relieve your discomfort, use supplemental prescription pain medications in combination with ibuprofen (as directed by Dr. Lavin or your referring dentist).
  • If Dr. Lavin or your referring dentist has placed you on an antibiotic, please continue to take the medication as prescribed.
  • Soaking the area with 1/2 teaspoon of table salt in 8 oz. of comfortably warm water will usually provide some relief.

You will be able to eat normally after your treatment, but we advise that you wait until the local anesthesia (numbing) has worn off, so that you do not bite your cheek or tongue. We also suggest that you avoid sticky or chewy foods until any swelling or tenderness has gone away, to allow for faster healing and less aggravation to the area.

Tooth Restoration

After your root canal treatment, Dr. Lavin will either permanently or temporarily restore your tooth. If your tooth has been temporarily restored, please make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to have a new crown or other restoration placed on the tooth in order to protect and restore it to full function. 

Usually, previous decay and fillings have weakened the endodontically-treated tooth. We recommend that most back teeth receive additional protection in the form of a full coverage restoration (crown or cap). Your referring dentist is the best qualified to determine how to restore your tooth.


Endodontic retreatment is the “redo” of a tooth that has been previously treated with root canal therapy. In some instances, a tooth does not heal as well as we would like, or a tooth can become re-infected due to many reasons such as decay or periodontal disease. Our goal with endodontic retreatment is to attempt to elongate the functional life of a tooth that would be lost without retreatment.