Root Canals: What You Need To Know

Costello Family Dentistry is the trusted source for providing root canals and restorative dentistry for oral health in Carleton Place and surrounding communities.

What Is A Root Canal?

A root canal, formally known as an endodontic treatment, is a series of dental procedures used to treat a serious tooth infection. Patients often shudder at the thought of having to undergo this kind of treatment, however it is not as scary as people believe it is and an important part of dentistry that saves millions of teeth every year. By understanding exactly what happens during a root canal treatment that our Carleton Place dentists perform on a regular basis, it is our hope that you won't avoid root canal treatment if you need it.

When is a Root Canal Needed?

A root canal is the best treatment option for patients who have a severe tooth infection. This infection is caused when bacteria in a patient's mouth makes its way to the pulp of the tooth and causes it to become inflamed or infected. The pulp is the soft tissue at the core of a tooth that sits underneath the enamel and dentin layers.

Causes of inflammation of the pulp often stems from poor oral hygiene practices that lead to deep tooth decay. They can also be caused by having repeated dental procedures (such as dental fillings) performed on the tooth, a faulty dental crown that exposes the tooth underneath to bacteria, or a crack or chip in the tooth allowing bacteria to infect the pulp.

X-Ray of an infected tooth
young woman getting a filling at the dentist

What is the Procedure for a Root Canal?

Root canal procedures are broken down into 8 steps that are carried out over 1 or 2 appointments depending on the severity of the case and the needs of the patient.

Step 1: Administer Local Anesthesia

The dentist will administer a local anesthetic (freezing), to the site of the procedure to numb the tooth and surrounding area. For patients with severe dental anxiety, dental sedation can be administered at this time to eligible patients to help them remain calm.

Step 2: Apply A Dental Dam

Once the site is sufficiently numb, the dentist will apply a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl that will block the surrounding teeth and create a sterile environment that reduces the risk of infection from bacteria found in the rest of the mouth.

Step 3: Drilling

In order to access the infected tissue of the tooth, the dentist will drill a small hole into the affected tooth. Thanks to the local anesthetic, patients won't feel any different than if they were getting a filling.

Step 4: Remove Nerves & Infected Tissue

Using special tools designed for the procedure, the dentist will proceed to remove the nerves and infected tissue through the hole they previously drilled. Once the nerves are removed, the tooth will no longer be able to feel pain.

Step 5: Disinfecting

The most important part of the procedure is making sure any bacteria left inside the empty canals of the tooth is dealt with. The dentist will thoroughly clean and disinfect the hollow insides of the tooth.

Step 6: Insert Flexible Root Canal Tools

Once the tooth is disinfected, flexible tools are inserted into the canals of the tooth to help shape the space where the filling and sealer will go. Once placed, the dentist will perform another thorough cleaning to remove any remaining debris.

Woman having her teeth cleaned by her dentist
Dentist performing a procedure on a sedated patient

Step 7: Apply The Filling

A special filling material is applied into the empty root canals and set in place by an adhesive cement sealer. The sealer is important to the procedure because it keeps the tooth from becoming reinfected in the future. Unless a post is needed, this is the final step of the procedure. Sometimes a post may be needed during this process as well, which leads to...

Step 8: Apply Post If Needed

A post may need to be inserted into the tooth during the filling process in step depending on the structure of the tooth. This post is used to hold a temporary or permanent filling in place. A post is not always required, and the dentist will be sure to use one only if needed.

Once the procedure is complete, most patients are prescribed an antibiotic to treat any infection that may remain. Patients who receive a temporary filling will need to return for a follow-up appointment to receive a permanent filling or dental crown to further reduce the risk of reinfection. It is common to feel minor pain or discomfort around the treated tooth after the local anesthetic wears off. However, this pain should only last a couple of days. If pain persists longer than that, then contact us immediately for a follow-up appointment.

How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

The amount of time required to complete a root canal treatment will vary between patients. The severity of the infection in question is the main factor. Normally, a root canal will take around an hour to complete. However, there have been cases where the amount of time required is longer due to complexity. These cases may also require more than one session to complete the root canal treatment.

How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?

Much like the amount of time required for a root canal treatment, the approximate cost will vary. This depends on several factors including the complexity of the treatment required, the number of sessions (though usually it’s only one that’s needed), and the prices set by the dental office in question. In order to help you make an informed decision, it’s best to reach out to our team for a consultation. We can then work to determine the approximate cost of your root canal treatment by inspecting the affected area.

Dentist performing a procedure on a sedated patient
dentist giving a thumbs up while a patient smiles in the background.

What Happens Post-Procedure?

After your root canal treatment has been completed, you may experience some discomforting symptoms that will soon subside. These may include increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, mild inflammation, and/or swelling of the gums. Some patients have an allergic reaction to the medication we prescribe for recovery, or they may have a slightly uneven bite that will need to be corrected.

While symptoms generally will subside over time, it’s best to reach out to your dentist for a checkup as a precaution. Even if you don’t exhibit symptoms that are noticeable to you, they may notice something that needs to be addressed after treatment is complete.

Myths About Root Canal Treatments

People often fear root canal treatments because they are told that they are very painful procedures among other things. Let’s go over the most common myths people tend to believe and debunk them together.

Root Canal Treatment is Painful

Many decades ago, this was a truthful statement. Dental technology was not as advanced as it is now. With the use of modern tools, techniques and anesthetics, a root canal procedure doesn't feel any different than having a cavity filled.

Root Canal Treatment Causes Illness

This is a false claim that was based on poorly designed and debunked research. This research, conducted almost a century ago before the field of medicine had a clear understanding of the causes of many diseases, is no longer accepted as fact. There is no valid scientific evidence to support this claim.

Female dentist performing a procedure on a sedated patient.
Woman smiling after having her teeth cleaned at the dentist

It's Better To Extract A Tooth Than Have A Root Canal Treatment

Whenever possible, it is always better to save a natural tooth. As far as dental technology has come, tooth replacement solutions can't fully replace the look or function of a natural tooth. Dental implants come close, but they require extensive surgery and recovery time and are much more costly than a dental implant. Dental bridges, dentures or flippers require more maintenance and treatments for the surrounding teeth and tissues. Root canal treatments have a very high rate of success and many root canal treated teeth last a lifetime with proper oral care.

Easy Root Canals In
Carleton Place

The dentists at Costello Family Dentistry in Carleton Place prioritize patient comfort and quality dental care above anything else. If you are experiencing severe tooth pain, you may need a root canal to treat it. Trust our team to give you a root canal treatment that is as quick and painless as possible. Contact us today for an appointment!

Frequently Asked Questions About root canals

Yes, in most cases, a dental crown is recommended after a root canal procedure. Root canals involve removing the infected pulp from the tooth and filling the canals. This can weaken the tooth structure, making it susceptible to fractures or further damage. A dental crown provides protection and restores the strength and functionality of the treated tooth. Your dentist will assess your specific case and determine if a dental crown is necessary.

Root canals have a high success rate. According to the American Association of Endodontists, the success rate for root canal treatment is approximately 95%. With modern advancements in techniques and technology, dentists can effectively remove infected pulp, clean the root canals, and seal them to prevent reinfection. However, success also depends on various factors, including the severity of the infection, the tooth’s condition, and the patient’s oral hygiene habits after the procedure.

In some cases, there may be alternatives to a root canal. One alternative is tooth extraction, which involves removing the infected tooth altogether. However, it’s important to consider the consequences of tooth loss, such as difficulties with chewing, speech, and potential misalignment of surrounding teeth. Tooth extraction is generally considered a last resort when other treatment options are not viable or if the tooth cannot be saved.

Several signs and symptoms may indicate the need for a root canal. These include severe tooth pain, prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, swelling or tenderness in the gums, a small pimple-like bump on the gums, darkening of the tooth, and persistent bad breath or an unpleasant taste. However, only a dentist can accurately diagnose the need for a root canal through a thorough examination, which may include X-rays and other diagnostic tests.

While root canals are generally safe, there can be risks and complications. These may include a fracture in the tooth during the procedure, damage to the surrounding structures, such as nerves or blood vessels, or incomplete removal of infected tissue. In rare cases, reinfection can occur if the root canal is not properly sealed or if the tooth is not adequately restored. Your dentist will discuss potential risks and complications with you before the procedure.

Yes, you can typically eat normally after a root canal. However, it is common to experience some sensitivity or discomfort in the treated tooth and surrounding area for a few days. It’s best to avoid chewing on hard or sticky foods immediately after the procedure to prevent any damage to the temporary filling or restoration. Your dentist may provide specific instructions regarding diet and oral care during the recovery period. As the tooth heals and a permanent restoration is placed, you should be able to resume your normal eating habits.