What to Expect During a Root Canal?

What to Expect During a Root Canal?

You’ve probably heard every annoying or potentially painful thing compared to root canals.

“It’s as bad as a root canal!” or “I’d rather have a root canal than do that!”

Root canals aren’t as bad as they’ve been portrayed, although they’re not much fun, either. Here’s what you need to know about the procedure. If you’re anxious or scared, ask about dental sedation options to help you stay calm through your next root canal.

What is a Root Canal?

What is a Root Canal?Most people have heard of root canals but not everyone knows what they are or why they’re needed. A root canal repairs a decayed or infected tooth. The nerve and pulp are taken out and the inside of your tooth gets cleaned thoroughly and then sealed. If you need a root canal and don’t get treatment, your tooth can become more infected and lead to abscesses — pus-filled pockets in your gums.

A root canal is also the name of the cavity located in the center of your tooth. It consists of pulp and a nerve. The pulp is the soft part, and the nerve runs through the root canal. During a root canal, the nerve is removed, but that’s okay. The nerve and pulp don’t impact the function of your tooth — only your ability to sense hot and cold.

When the pulp or nerve get damaged, it begins to break down and bacteria grows. This is what leads to needing a root canal procedure. If you don’t get a root canal when you need one, you can experience facial swelling, bone loss around your tooth, and drainage from the hole in your tooth into your gums. It all leads to more problems.

What Happens During a Root Canal Procedure?

What Happens During a Root Canal Procedure?It’s normal to feel nervous before a dental procedure, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Here’s what typically happens from start to finish:

  • An x-ray is taken of your tooth and gum. Your dentist looks at the shape of your root canal and to check for any infection in the bone.
  • You receive a local anesthetic to your gum. This is only to make you more comfortable. Any pain should be minimal as the nerve in your tooth will likely already be dead.
  • A rubber dam is placed around your tooth to keep the space dry and prevent saliva from getting in.
  • A hole will be drilled into your tooth to access the root canal.
  • Your dentist removes pulp, decayed nerve tissue, any bacteria, and any debris located in the root canal. This is known as a pulpectomy.
  • Your tooth will be thoroughly cleaned.
  • The next step is to seal your root canal. This is often completed during the same visit with sealer paste and a rubber compound. If you have an infection, that may need to be treated first, resulting in a follow up appointment for the sealer. If this occurs, a temporary filling will be used.
  • Once the root canal is sealed, a filling is placed in the access hole drilled earlier.
  • The final step usually occurs up to a few weeks after the initial root canal. Your remaining tooth needs to be protected because it’s likely weakened or decayed. A crown may be placed over your existing tooth.

While a root canal is common and completely safe, you may want to discuss your options to reduce your anxiety or fears. Dental sedation can be as simple as breathing nitrous oxide during the procedure, or you may want to ask about oral sedation options.

After the Procedure

During the procedure, you shouldn’t feel any pain. After your root canal is done, you may experience some sensitivity in your tooth. This may be caused by inflammation in your gums, the now-healing infection, or any previous pain you had. An over-the-counter pain medicine will likely be all you need, but talk to your dentist first. And talk to your dentist if the pain increases or the medication doesn’t help.


To prevent root canals, brush and floss twice a day and see your dentist for regular checkups. But if you have to have a root canal, make sure you know what to expect. If you’re nervous about the procedure, ask about dental sedation options to help you cope. A root canal doesn’t have to be something you dread, and not getting one isn’t good for your health.