Root Canal Therapy

Just what is a root canal?

First of all, each tooth in your mouth has somewhere between one to four root canals. They are extremely little passages that run from the top of your tooth to the very tip of the root.

If a tooth becomes infected and that spreads to the pulp, you may have to get a root canal. The pulp, or inner core of the tooth, is filled with tiny blood vessels, nerves and tissue. Sometimes this area of the tooth can become infected. Should the infection progress and seriously affect the pulp, eventually it will start to damage the roots. If a tooth suffers a traumatic injury, this too can affect the pulp, which will lead to similar problems.

If you have an inner tooth that is diseased, there will be noticeable indications that it’s time for a visit to the dentist. Most likely you’ll find that the tooth is extremely sensitive to both hot and cold. There is also pain associated with a diseased tooth. As the infection spreads, there will be tiny pockets that form containing pus and this could result in an abscess.

The purpose of root canal therapy is to save the diseased tooth. Root canals are performed with a great degree of success and the tooth restored to its natural function. This requires removing all of the affected tissue and restoring the portion of the tooth that’s healthy. Prior to root canals the only option for the patient was to have the tooth removed.


The procedure for this therapy will generally require one to possibly three visits to your dentist. The first visit is usually the longest and most involved portion of the procedure. To begin, a small hole is drilled through the top of the tooth and into the tooth’s inner portion to access the affected area. Once that is completed, all of the diseased tissue is removed from the tooth. Then the inner chamber is thoroughly cleansed and disinfected and the tiny canals are very carefully reshaped. The final part of the procedure entails filling the chamber and canals with an elastic material and medication that will prevent any future infection. A temporary crown may be put in place to cover the top of the tooth until a final seal is made with a permanent crown, which has to be manufactured at a special lab.

Patients will have the enjoyment of a totally restored tooth with very little discomfort or pain involved. And that tooth will last about as long as the healthy original it replaced.

What to Do Following a Root Canal (Endodontic) Procedure

A root canal procedure requires us to work with the tooth nerve which lies deep inside to the roots of your teeth. After leaving our office, please follow the instructions of care below to help reduce problems and discomfort.

  • For pain management, an effective pain regimen is to take Ibuprofen (Advil) 400mg + Acetaminophen (Tylenol) 500mg together every 4-6 hours as needed for pain. Do not exceed 2400mg Ibuprofen or 3000mg Acetaminophen daily.

  • Brush and floss as normal. If the opening in your tooth was restored with a temporary filling material, it is not unusual for some material to wear off in between appointments, However if you feel the entire filling has come out, contact our office.

  • Contact us if you develop any of the following:

    • visible swelling inside or outside of your mouth

    • allergic reaction to medication (rash, hives, or itching)

    • a return of original symptoms

    • your bite feels uneven

Following a root canal, most teeth require a core build-up and a crown for strength. It is extremely important that you complete this treatment as recommended. Over time, after a root canal is completed the tooth becomes brittle and may discolor. If not covered and protected, this treated tooth could easily break, requiring it to be removed.

Download Instructions (PDF)