Your Essential Guide to Root Canal Procedures

root canal

Root Canals aren't as scary as you might've heard

I’m sure that you’ve heard the words “root canal” many, many times in your life. Maybe your dentist told you you need one right now, or you needed one before, or perhaps someone you know needs, or needed one at some point. In any case, let me tell you that a root canal is nothing to be too worried about, because root canals are not what they used to be. 

Gone are the days when this procedure was synonymous with discomfort and fear. Today, it’s routine, effective, and much less daunting than you might imagine; so read on, because today you will learn everything you need to know about root canals.

Dr. Debbie Luis

Dr. Debbie Luis

Mother - General Dentist - Blogger

Understanding Root Canal Basics

Defining the Procedure

A root canal is a dental treatment designed to save a tooth in distress. This procedure is a method for eliminating infection and protecting the tooth against future microbial invasion. It’s often completed in just one or two visits, and it allows you to save a tooth that is compromised by infection or decay, instead of saying goodbye to it.

In a root canal procedure dental professionals meticulously restore your tooth’s inner side, where the nerves and blood vessels, also known as “pulp”, reside. It’s like clearing out a room that’s been overrun by unwanted guests. In this case, they remove bacteria that built up due to a cavity or a crack, usually as a result of poor oral care. 

Once cleared and sterilized, the area is filled with a biocompatible material that prevents reinfection and supports the tooth’s structure. Finally, the work is finished with a crown for protection, restoring its function and comfort so you can chew and bite as usual.

Recognizing the Need

As a dentist I always recommend my patients and readers to look for professional advice when it comes to your dental care, because time is of the essence in dentistry, and ignoring or neglecting pain or discomfort will only make the problem become worse, (and more expensive). So make sure to give your dentist a call if you have any of the following signals because it could mean that you need a root canal:

  • Persistent toothache.
  • Continuous sensitivity to hot and cold.
  • Tooth discoloration.
  • Excessively swollen gums.
  • Persistent or recurring pimples on the gums.

Acknowledging these symptoms early can prevent needing a root canal or even worse; so it’s very important to stay alert and address these signs on time. Call your dentist and schedule an appointment right away if you have any of the symptoms above. After they see you, they will determine the proper treatment for you. 

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Preparing for Your Root Canal

If your dentist decides that you do in fact need a root canal, make sure to follow these tips so you can make their work (and your life) easier. As your appointment approaches, maintaining excellent oral hygiene with attentive brushing and flossing is the best prelude to your procedure. If preoperative discomfort is a concern, chat with your dentist about recommendations for over-the-counter pain relief that won’t conflict with your upcoming treatment.

Embrace a relaxed mindset, do some meditation, yoga, or whatever it is that helps you calm down, and get a good night’s sleep before your appointment. Trust in the expertise of your dental team, and you know, just try to be chill. Your cooperation is the key to making the root canal procedure as smooth as possible.

What to Do Before the Appointment

Before your root canal, compile a list of current medications and supplements. This information helps your endodontist prevent potential drug interactions.

Confirm your appointment time and date to ensure punctuality.

Discuss any concerns with your endodontist, such as prior reactions or anxieties regarding procedures.

Make arrangements for post-procedure transport, especially if sedation will be part of your treatment.

Plan for a recovery day. Allow yourself rest to heal and return to daily activities gradually.

Lastly, review your dental insurance coverage to avoid unexpected expenses. Know your plan’s details about endodontic procedures and your financial responsibility. 

SHD Insurance offers great dental plans with coverage for root canals and most other major dental procedures, so If you’re struggling to find a good plan call us now at (866) 664-0276 and get a free quote in less than five minutes.

The Root Canal Process

Step-by-Step Walkthrough

First, they will take an X-ray to assess the damage and plan the procedure. This visual guide helps pinpoint the exact areas that need attention and care.

Then, the area around the tooth is numbed with local anesthesia to ensure comfort. Don’t worry; they’ll make sure you’re as comfortable as possible before beginning.

Next, they’ll place a small protective sheet called a dental dam to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and dry during the procedure.

After that, your endodontist will carefully remove the infected pulp, clean the canal, and shape the space for the filling. It’s a meticulous process, but crucial for success.

Once everything is clean and shaped, the canal is filled with a material called gutta-percha to seal it. Lastly, the tooth is restored and voila, you’re all set!

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Pain Management Options

Although It’s normal to feel discomfort after the procedure, whenever performing a root canal the endodontist will use Local anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding area, ensuring a pain-free procedure. For those feeling particularly anxious, sedation options such as nitrous oxide (often known as “laughing gas”) or oral sedatives can provide additional relaxation, easing the nerves.

As I said, discomfort and even moderate pain as a result of the procedure are normal, and can be controlled with pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. In any case, it’s always better to ask the doctor about pain management after the root canal procedure. They might prescribe something specific, or recommend the right over-the-counter medication for you.

Keep in mind, your dental team is there to support you, and they’ll tailor the pain management techniques to your personal needs, ensuring the recovery is as comfortable as possible.

Root Canal Post-Procedure Care and Recovery

After your root canal, you might experience some tenderness around the treated area and your tooth may feel sensitive because of natural tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the treatment. If so, then you can try to stick to soft foods, avoid chewing on that side, as well as hot foods and beverages immediately after the procedure, as your mouth may still be numb. 

Make sure to take whatever your doctor prescribes or take some over-the-counter pain medications if needed to nix any discomfort and avoid swelling.

Additionally, maintain good oral hygiene, soft brushing around the treated tooth, avoiding vigorous motions. You should continue flossing, but be gentle with the area that’s healing to prevent any undue irritation that could disturb the root canal work.

Take it easy for a couple of days, and listen to your body (and me), it will tell you if you need to slow down the pace, or if you can go back to your usual routine. But don’t rush, you don’t want to do any activities that can ramp up blood flow to the treated area.

In the days following treatment, be mindful of the healing tooth during your daily activities. Take it easy for a couple of days, and listen to your body (and me), it will tell you if you need to slow down the pace, or if you can go back to your usual routine. But don’t rush, you don’t want to do any high-impact activities that can ramp up blood flow to the treated area. Following these aftercare instructions will make the recovery process from a root canal faster.

Root Canal Prevention

Visit your dentist twice a year: Regular dental checkups are your best defense against root canals. These visits allow for early detection and intervention.

Healthy Diet: Following a balanced diet is essential for dental health. Foods rich in calcium and phosphorus, such as dairy products and leafy greens, fortify tooth enamel, while crunchy fruits and vegetables stimulate saliva production, naturally clearing away food particles and bacteria. This way you can reduce a chance of needing a root canal.

Improve your dental hygiene: Finally, and I can’t emphasize this enough, keep good oral care. Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. The majority of dental issues can be easily prevented by having proper oral hygiene. On the other hand if you neglect it, you’re opening the door for tooth decay, which leads to cavities, tooth loss, and sometimes even oral cancer.


So there you have it, now you know what a root canal is, and what you need to do when you need one and after you get one. And if you actually did have to get one; you will agree with me that it’s an experience you only want to have once in a lifetime. Not only because of the physical pain, but also because of the financial pain that you have to go through. So as I always say, prevention is the best treatment for any dental procedure.

Now if you’re passed the prevention stage, simply understand that by undergoing a root canal, you not only address the pain caused by an infected or decaying tooth, but you also preserve the integrity of your smile. This procedure not only restores your tooth’s strength but also provides long-lasting relief, allowing you to enjoy your coffee mornings without the fear of sudden toothaches.

If you are struggling to find a good dental plan that you can rely on when needed; SHD offers great options for individualsfamilies and seniors. Call us now at (866) 664-0276 to get a free Quote!


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