The Root of the Problem: Everything You Need to Know About Root Canals

March 11, 2023

The Root of the Problem: Everything You Need to Know About Root Canals
The Root of the Problem: Everything You Need to Know About Root Canals

If you require a root canal, you may feel anxious or uncertain about what to expect. But don't worry. A root canal is a routine dental procedure that can save a damaged or infected tooth and prevent further complications. This article will cover what a root canal is, what to expect during the procedure, and how to care for your tooth afterward.


What is a Root Canal?

A root canal, also known as endodontic therapy, is a procedure that is performed when the soft tissue inside a tooth, called the pulp, becomes inflamed or infected. This can happen due to deep decay, a cracked tooth, repeated dental procedures on the same tooth, or an injury. The goal of a root canal is to remove the damaged or infected pulp, clean out the inside of the tooth, and seal it to prevent further infection.

When Do I Go to the Dentist?

If you are experiencing severe, persistent tooth pain that’s not relieved by over-the-counter pain medication, it may be a sign that you need a root canal. The pain may be throbbing or sharp and may be accompanied by swelling or tenderness around the affected tooth.


Tooth sensitivity, unnatural discoloration, swelling and tenderness around the gums, or having an open tooth due to cracks and chips also require visiting your dentist for a possible root canal. If you also have skin-related problems, you can save time by going to a Dental + Skin clinic. With that, you won’t have to go to several other clinics.

What Do I Do Before Undergoing a Root Canal?

When preparing for a root canal, it’s recommended that you eat a light meal before the procedure, as you may experience numbness or discomfort after the root canal.


If you experience anxiety or fear related to dental procedures, talk to your dentist about options such as sedation dentistry or relaxation techniques that may help you feel more comfortable during the procedure. If you opt for light sedation, you might feel groggy or experience discomfort afterward. Have someone with you to safely take you home.

What Happens During a Root Canal?

A root canal is usually performed throughout two or three visits to the dentist. During the first visit, your dentist will numb the area around the affected tooth and place a protective sheet called a dental dam over your mouth to keep the area clean and dry. Your dentist will then make a small opening in the top of the tooth to gain access to the pulp.


Using small, specialized instruments, your dentist will remove the damaged or infected pulp from inside the tooth and shape the inside of the root canals to prepare them for filling. Once the inside of the tooth has been cleaned and shaped, your dentist will fill the root canals with gutta-percha and seal the opening with a temporary filling.


At your next visit, your dentist will remove the temporary filling and place a more permanent filling over the top for protection. Others also use crowns so your teeth can get back to their function.

What Do You Do After a Root Canal?

After a root canal, it's important to take good care of your tooth to ensure it heals properly and remains healthy. Also, pain is expected after root canal procedures. Here are some tips for reducing discomfort and caring for your tooth after a root canal:

Take OTC Medication

OTC or over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve pain after your procedure. These pain relievers also help with swelling, greatly reducing pain as you recover. Follow the instructions given to you by a dentist, or read the label and do not exceed the recommended dose.

Apply Ice Pack

Applying an ice pack to the affected area can help reduce swelling and numb the pain. Wrap the ice pack in a towel and apply it to the outside of the cheek for 20 minutes, with another 20-minute break in between.


After a root canal procedure, it's important to rest and avoid strenuous activities for the first few days. This will give your body time to heal and reduce the risk of complications.

Avoid Hard or Chewy Foods

Eating hard or chewy foods can apply stress on the affected tooth and cause pain or discomfort. Stick to soft, easy-to-chew foods, such as soup, yogurt, or mashed potatoes, until the tooth has been fully restored.


Use a Warm Salt Water Rinse

Rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day to help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water and swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out.

Follow Post-Operative Instructions

Your dentist will give you specific post-op instructions on caring for your tooth after a root canal procedure. Follow these instructions carefully to ensure your tooth heals properly and avoid complications.


A root canal is a common dental procedure that can save a damaged or infected tooth and prevent further complications. Understanding what to expect during the procedure and how to care for your tooth afterward can ensure a smooth and successful recovery.


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