Dental health issues are not fun and if your dentist recommends a root canal treatment, you will have several questions about the procedure. Fortunately, the root canal procedure has advanced, and it is not as scary and painful as it used to be. Due to modern technology, root canal therapy currently resembles routine fillings where you can have the procedure within two appointments.

At The Whittier Dentist, our team of highly trained dental specialists will perform this procedure easily. When your tooth's pulp is severely damaged, your dentist may recommend a root canal to save it. A root canal is an endodontic treatment that has a high success rate. Studies show that 90% - 95% of people who undergo root canal treatment end up with a functioning tooth afterward. After the treatment, your tooth can have a long lifespan if you have regular checkups with your dentist and good oral hygiene.

What is Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal is a dental procedure that involves the removal of your tooth’s pulp. The pulp is the soft center part of the tooth, and it consists of connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves. When you undergo a root canal treatment, the aim is to eliminate bacteria from the infected tooth, which helps prevent infection on the affected tooth and saves your natural tooth.

An endodontist or even a general dentist can perform this advanced treatment procedure after they injecting you with local anesthesia. When undergoing this treatment procedure, your endodontist will remove the infected or inflamed pulp, clean the pulp chamber, and seal the tooth to ensure the reinfection does not occur.

Common Causes of Pulp Decay or Damage

You will need this treatment option when bacteria invade your tooth's pulp and damage it. This happens mostly when:

  • You have a cavity that has not been treated over a long period.
  • You suffer from bruxism, a condition characterized by the chronic grinding of your teeth.
  • Untreated and deep-seated tooth decay.
  • Advanced gum illness.
  • If you have cracks in your teeth.
  • Damaged tooth due to an injury.

Signs and Symptoms Indicating the Need to Undergo Root Canal Procedure

It is easy to know when your teeth are infected in most cases. However, you can still suffer from infected teeth without knowing, and the only way to find out is through a routine dental check-up. Some of the signs that indicate you need to have a root canal treatment may include:

  • Intense pain. Most dental issues are characterized by pain, but when you have some deep-rooted intense pain that does not go away, it indicates that you need to visit your dentist. They will evaluate your teeth and see if they can recommend a root canal as a treatment option. Sometimes, this intense pain radiates to your teeth, jaw, or face, making your life uncomfortable.
  • Swollen Gums. This infection can lead to pus formation when you have an infected tooth. When pus collects on your tooth, it will lead to tender or swollen gums.
  • Heat or Cold Sensitivity. If you suffer from heat or cold sensitivity, it is an indication that you will need to have root canal therapy. Heat and cold sensitivity mean that you can not enjoy drinking your favorite hot drink or eating your ice cream in peace due to pain that lingers afterward.
  • Swollen Jaw. You may have a swollen jaw if you have residual pus on your infected tooth.
  • Pimples on Your Gums. When you have a pimple on your gums, it can lead to gum infection. The pimple can have pus that will infect your gum, leading to bad breath.
  • Tooth Discolouration. When your tooth's pulp is infected, it leads to tooth discoloration. Pulp infection, in most cases, inhibits blood supply to your tooth, which gives your tooth a dark shade of color.
  • Intense Pain When You Apply Pressure. One way of realizing that your pulp is infected is feeling intense pain when you eat or touch your tooth. Pain results from damaged nerves surrounding your pulp.
  • A Cracked or Chipped Tooth. A cracked or chipped tooth may result from an accident or biting down hard foodstuff like a popcorn kernel. Bacteria can use the crack to reach your tooth's pulp, and infection will occur.
  • Loose Tooth. When you have an infection on your tooth, it will feel looser. You will feel this looseness because when your tooth pulp is infected, it will have pus that softens the bone surrounding your tooth.

Complications Resulting From Tooth Pulp Infection

It is essential to have treatment as soon as you realize a pulp infection. Prompt treatment will help to prevent infection. If you neglect to treat your infected pulp on time, it will lead to complications like:

Bone Loss In The Infected Area

When an infection is left over a long period, it will spread to the surrounding bone, infecting the tooth pulp and eroding the tooth's enamel.

Spread Infection To The Surrounding Bones

When your pulp suffers an infection, it loses its ability to fight and protect the tooth from infection. Without the protection of the pulp, bacteria multiply and thrive inside your tooth pulp. As this infection continues, it will lead to an endodontic abscess, a pocket of pus. This pus will then flow to the surrounding teeth and infect them.

Tooth Loss

You may end up losing your tooth due to a pulp infection. When you lose your tooth, you will have bite and appearance problems. You do not have to worry as several teeth replacement options are available. The only cause to worry is if these options are limited due to pulp infection.

Tooth Pulp Diagnosis

If you are experiencing signs and symptoms indicating pulp infection, you should visit your dentist. You can also let your dentist know if you have any oral issues during your regular checkup. Your dentist will listen and examine your teeth to determine where the issue is.

Sometimes your dentist will request X-rays to ensure that they pinpoint where the problem is. X-rays are also important when planning for a root canal treatment. The x-ray will show the infected tooth's size, shape, and number. If, after the x-ray, your dentist thinks that you require a root canal treatment, they may refer you to an endodontist (a dental specialist specializing in root canal treatment procedures).

Understanding Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment is a quick and comfortable dental procedure. This treatment procedure is efficient as it saves your natural tooth and helps with pain relief. Your tooth has a soft layer of tissue known as pulp beneath your tooth enamel. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues that play an important part in your tooth development. Your tooth can survive without its pulp when it has developed fully since it will continue to receive its nourishment from the surrounding tissues.

Modern root canal treatment is extremely effective and relatively painless. The number of root canal appointments will depend on your tooth’s condition. You can have your dentist or endodontist perform the procedure within two appointments. After the procedure, you will have saved your natural tooth, enjoy efficient chewing, retain your natural appearance, protect your other teeth from wear, and have a normal biting without applying force.

How to Prepare for a Root Canal Treatment Procedure

When your dentist recommends a root canal treatment procedure, it is important to understand it. Also, ask your endodontist or dentist any questions regarding the procedure. Once you are content with the procedure, you should do the following to prepare before the procedure takes place:

Take Your Prescribed Medications

Before the commencement of the procedure, your dentist may recommend some medications like anti-inflammatory and antibiotics. Sometimes your dentist may prescribe the use of medications a few days before undergoing a root canal treatment. You should take these medications to help clear infection and ease your pain.

Avoid Smoking

It is important to avoid smoking a few days before your root canal treatment. In most cases, tobacco products affect and interfere with your body's healing ability. If you can stop smoking altogether, the better for you.

Eat Well

It is important to eat well before undergoing root canal treatment. When performing a root canal treatment, your endodontist will apply local anesthesia to the affected area, leaving your mouth numb even after the procedure. Eating before the procedure ensures that you are not hungry afterward when you can not eat.

Root Canal Treatment Procedure

A root canal treatment will generally require two appointments, depending on your tooth’s infection. It will take 30 minutes to one hour to complete the procedure, but this time can extend up to 90 minutes if your dentist works on a back tooth with multiple roots.

Before beginning the root canal therapy, your endodontist or dentist will require an x-ray done on the infected tooth. You can have this x-ray some days before the procedure or on the day of your procedure. This x-ray aims to determine if a root canal is an appropriate therapy and the extent of infection in your tooth.

Steps Taken During Root Canal Treatment Procedure

Your dentist will take several steps while performing root canal therapy. These steps are:

Application of local anesthesia

The first step during a root canal treatment is the application of local anesthesia. Your dentist will give you anesthesia to numb the area surrounding the infected gum and tooth. Additionally, your dentist can provide you with medicine that will help with relaxation, like nitrous oxide and oral sedatives if you are anxious about the procedure.

Rubber Dam Placement

Before starting root canal therapy, your dentist will place a small rubber dam over the infected area. The aim of placing this rubber dam is to isolate the infected tooth, keep it dry, and be saliva-free during the entire procedure.

Creation of an Access Hole

The next step is for your endodontist to create an access hole in the form of a small opening on your tooth’s crown, which helps them access your tooth pulp. They will create the access hole by drilling through the affected tooth to reach the pulp chamber and root canal.

Pulp Removal

Your dentist will remove nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels from the pulp.

Disinfecting the Root Canal

Once your dentist removes the pulp, the next step is to clean the root canal and pulp chamber using special instruments. Then they will disinfect the pulp chamber using antiseptic and antibacterial solutions. Using these solutions helps eliminate bacterial infections and treat the infected area.

Filling the root canal

Once the root canal is disinfected, they will shape it to retain its natural look. They will shape your tooth by filling it using a flexible rubber file known as gutta-percha.

Shaping the root canal

After cleaning and disinfecting the affected area, your dentist will shape your root canal. They will use tiny dental instruments to shape, ensuring that they are ready to receive a temporary filling. After filling and shaping the canal, it will have to be cleaned again. Your dentist may decide to place a temporary filling after cleaning and disinfecting your root canal to prevent infection.

Filling in the canals

Your dentist will use tiny dental instruments to fill in the root canal. This small rubber-like dental instrument is placed inside the root canal and then heated. Your dentist will ensure that it snugly fits within the canal by compressing it against your tooth walls. Then they will add an adhesive cement to seal the canal, which will help keep bacteria out.

Sealing the access hole

Your dentist will then have to seal the access hole, preventing bacteria from entering the canal and causing infection. After sealing the access hole, your dentist will place a post that aims to strengthen your tooth. They will put this post if your tooth has extensive damage, which makes it challenging to support the restoration on its own.

Prescribing antibiotics and healing

After sealing the root canal, your dentist may prescribe some antibiotics to take home. These antibiotics will help kill any remaining bacteria and prevent infection. You will also be given post-treatment care instructions that you should follow. You may experience some mild discomfort after the procedure for a few days. You can also take over-the-counter painkillers to minimize your discomfort.

Fitting in a crown

Sometimes you may require to have a crown if the root canal was done on one of your back teeth or if your tooth had extensive damage. The crown aims to add stability and strength to the treated tooth. Your dentist will fabricate a permanent crown to match your existing teeth. When a crown is placed, it will help your tooth chew comfortably.

Root canal Recovery Time

The local anesthesia will keep your mouth numb for about 2 to 4 hours after the treatment procedure. With a root canal procedure, you can return to your daily activities within the same day. Your recovery will not be instant but will take almost a week. You should expect mild discomfort within this time. However, if you experience intense pain or if your discomfort takes longer, you should consult with your dentist.

Root Canal Treatment After-Care

After the root canal treatment procedure, your endodontist or dentist will give you some instructions about pain management and the aftercare to follow while recovering. It is essential to follow your dentist's recovery guidelines, especially if you have a crown or temporary filling.

The discomfort you will experience after a root canal procedure is minimal and will not require you to spend a couple of days resting in bed. You should take the prescribed medication as it will help in easing your discomfort. The medication contains an inflammation that will assist in managing swelling that may occur after the procedure.

Root canal after-care can be subdivided into three groups:

Immediately after the Procedure

Immediately after the procedure, your mouth will be numb for a couple of hours. You should avoid eating anything that will require chewing or drinking extremely hot drinks. Chewing food will make you run the risk of biting down hard and hurting your bite, while hot beverages may burn your mouth.

You should fill out your prescription and take your medication as soon as possible. It would be best if you took it easy for the rest of the day. The discomfort should ease with time.

The Next Couple of Days

For the next couple of days, take the following measures:

  • Take your medication as prescribed.
  • Take soft food.
  • Brush your teeth softly.
  • Ensure that you avoid chewing using the side that had the procedure.

Following these measures will help to keep your discomfort at a minimum. Sometimes if your case is very severe, you might have to go back at least for another visit to ensure that your infected pulp is removed completely.


Ensure you keep all your future appointments even though you are not experiencing any pain. If you have a temporary filling, you will be required to have a crown later on. Your dentist might recommend a temporary filling if your tooth was damaged during the root canal procedure. Keep all your follow-up appointments, and it will be easy once you start.

Root Canal Complications

Root canal-like any dental treatment can have occasional complications. These complications may include tooth cracking if you do not follow aftercare guidelines, infections, or when the pulp is not entirely removed. If your swelling or pain does not ease a few days after the procedure, you should contact your health provider.

It is more than likely that you will be more anxious before undergoing a root canal procedure than afterward. The procedure leaves mild discomfort, and the pain level is relatively low. This discomfort is due to the soreness brought by keeping your mouth open over a long period during the procedure.

Your dentist may prescribe stronger medications to ease your pain and discomfort. You should make sure that you follow the instructions laid down carefully. Some prescribed medication may contain narcotics that can make you sleepy, which calls for extra caution when driving or operating machinery.

Though you should feel a different sensation on your treated tooth, you should contact your dentist if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Visible or severe swelling on the outside or inside of your mouth.
  • Intense pain.
  • If you feel your bite is off.
  • When your temporary filling is loose or if it comes out.

It would help if you remembered to practice good oral hygiene, like brushing after meals and flossing daily. Excellent dental hygiene will help in preventing reinfection on the treated tooth. Once you are done with your root canal follow-up appointments, you will have to return to your dentist to have a final restoration done. When your endodontist completes your root canal, you should have your crown fitted to ensure that your treated tooth has a long life.

Your Tooth Color Should Not Worry You

Usually, a healthy tooth has a yellowish-white color. Sometimes your tooth color may change after a root canal treatment procedure. If your pulp-free tooth is not covered by a crown but is sealed with filling, it may turn gray over time. If this is the case, you should consult your dentist for the appropriate cosmetic dentistry to help you.

Contact an Experienced Dentist Near Me

If you or your loved one is experiencing intense tooth pain, it can be traumatizing, especially if it is accompanied by swelling in your jaw and bad breath. Fortunately for you, a root canal treatment procedure can help remove the infection from its root cause. When your endodontist performs root canal on you, they help you recover quickly and resume your everyday life.

If you experience pain, bad breath, swelling, or suspect you have cracked your tooth, you should call your dentist immediately. When it comes to dental health, prompt treatment plays a crucial role in retaining your natural teeth and addressing any issue that could crop up.

You do not need to feel self-conscious if your dental health has deteriorated due to one reason or another. Our practice at The Whittier Dentist is patient-centered, where your treatment is our top-most priority. When you contact us, feel free to ask any questions as our able team will assist you and ensure you receive the best dental care. We will take you through the procedures, explain what you are to expect, and help you calm down if you are anxious about any procedure. For these and many more services, contact us at 562-632-1223 and schedule your consultation.