What to Expect During a Root Canal?

Are you scheduled for a root canal procedure and wondering what to expect? Root canals are common dental treatments used to save teeth that are severely infected or damaged. While the procedure may sound intimidating, understanding what happens during a root canal can help alleviate any anxiety and prepare you for the process. In this article, we will provide you with a detailed overview of what to expect during a root canal, from the initial consultation to post-treatment care.

What is a Root Canal?

Before delving into the details of the procedure, let’s first understand what a root canal is. A root canal is a dental treatment performed to repair and save a tooth that is decayed or infected. The procedure involves removing the infected pulp from the tooth’s interior, cleaning the area, and then sealing it to prevent further infection. Root canals are typically performed by endodontists, who specialize in treating the soft tissue inside the tooth known as the pulp.

What to Expect During a Root Canal: The Process

1. Initial Consultation

The first step in undergoing a root canal is scheduling an initial consultation with your dentist or endodontist. During this appointment, the dental professional will examine your tooth, review your dental history, and take X-rays to assess the extent of the infection or damage. They will explain the root canal procedure, discuss the benefits and risks, and answer any questions or concerns you may have.

2. Administration of Local Anesthesia

On the day of the procedure, you will be administered local anesthesia to numb the area around the affected tooth. This ensures that you remain comfortable and pain-free during the root canal. The dentist or endodontist will apply a numbing gel to the gum tissue before injecting the anesthetic into the area. You may feel a slight pinch or pressure from the injection, but it should not be painful.

3. Placement of the Dental Dam

Once the anesthesia has taken effect, the dental professional will place a dental dam around the tooth being treated. A dental dam is a thin, protective sheet that isolates the tooth from the rest of the mouth, keeping it clean and dry during the procedure. The dental dam also prevents any debris or chemicals from entering your mouth or throat.

4. Creating an Access Opening

With the dental dam in place, the dentist or endodontist will create a small access opening in the tooth. This is done using specialized dental instruments and allows them to reach the infected pulp inside the tooth. The access opening is typically made on the top surface of the tooth for molars or the backside for front teeth.

5. Removal of Infected Pulp

Using root canal files of varying sizes, the dental professional will carefully remove the infected or damaged pulp from the tooth’s pulp chamber and root canals. The pulp chamber is the hollow space within the tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. The root canals extend from the pulp chamber to the roots of the tooth and also contain pulp.

6. Cleaning and Shaping the Canals

Once the infected pulp has been removed, the dentist or endodontist will clean the pulp chamber and root canals thoroughly. They will use special disinfecting solutions and irrigation techniques to remove any remaining debris and bacteria. In some cases, they may also use antimicrobial medication to ensure the complete elimination of infection-causing microorganisms. After cleaning, the canals will be shaped using specialized instruments to prepare them for filling.

7. Filling the Canals

After cleaning and shaping the canals, the next step is to fill them with a material called gutta-percha. Gutta-percha is a biocompatible rubber-like material that seals the canals to prevent reinfection. It is placed in the canals using an adhesive cement to ensure a tight seal. In some cases, a post may also be inserted into the tooth to provide additional support for a dental crown.

8. Temporary Filling

Once the canals are filled, a temporary filling material is placed in the access opening to protect the tooth until a permanent restoration can be placed. The temporary filling will be later replaced with a dental crown or another appropriate restoration to restore the tooth’s strength, function, and appearance.

9. Post-Treatment Care

After the root canal procedure, you may experience some tenderness or mild discomfort, which can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. It is important to follow any post-treatment instructions provided by your dentist or endodontist, which may include avoiding chewing on the treated tooth until the permanent restoration is placed. Maintaining good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing regularly, is crucial to ensure the success and longevity of the root canal treatment.

FAQs About Root Canals

Is a root canal a painful procedure?

Contrary to popular belief, root canals are not painful procedures. The use of local anesthesia ensures that you remain comfortable throughout the treatment. While you may experience some discomfort during the recovery period, it is typically manageable with over-the-counter pain medication.

How long does a root canal procedure take?

The duration of a root canal procedure depends on various factors, such as the complexity of the case and the number of root canals involved. In general, a root canal can take anywhere from one to three appointments, with each appointment lasting between 60 to 90 minutes.

Can a root canal save my tooth?

Yes, a root canal can save a severely infected or damaged tooth from extraction. By removing the infected pulp and sealing the canals, a root canal treatment eliminates the source of infection and allows you to retain your natural tooth.

Are there any alternatives to a root canal?

In some cases, if a tooth is deemed unsalvageable or the infection is too severe, extraction may be necessary. However, it is important to consult with your dentist or endodontist to explore all available options before considering extraction.

How long does a root canal last?

With proper care and regular dental check-ups, a root canal can last a lifetime. It is essential to maintain good oral hygiene, avoid biting on hard objects, and follow your dentist’s recommendations for the long-term success of the treatment.

What are the risks associated with a root canal?

While root canals are generally safe and effective, there is a slight risk of complications. These can include a cracked tooth, reinfection, or a missed canal. However, with advancements in dental technology and the expertise of dental professionals, such complications are rare.


A root canal procedure may sound intimidating, but understanding what to expect can help ease any anxiety you may have. By undergoing a root canal, you can save a severely infected or damaged tooth and restore its function and appearance. Consult with our expert team at Smile Zone Dental to address any concerns or questions you may have about the procedure. With proper care and maintenance, a root canal can provide a long-lasting solution to dental problems, allowing you to enjoy a healthy smile for years to come.