What Should You Know Before Your Root Canal Procedure?

woman looking in mirror at dentist

If you recently found out you need a root canal, your mind is probably buzzing with questions. Does the procedure hurt? How much will it cost? Does a root canal need a crown? Here are the answers to seven common questions about root canals to ease your mind.

Did you finally have the courage to talk your dentist about that sharp tooth pain, then find out you need a root canal? You are not alone. More than 15 million root canals are performed in the U.S. each year.

If you’re feeling a little uncertain about the procedure, you should know the facts before heading to the dentist’s chair. Knowledge is power! It will calm your nerves and help you mentally prepare.

Here are answers to seven important questions about the root canal procedure, and the dental crowns that usually accompany it.

1. When is a root canal needed?

A root canal is needed when the nerve sitting beneath your tooth becomes contaminated with bacteria from a cavity, or when the nerve is exposed and/or damaged from a large tooth fracture or break.

This usually causes irreversible inflammation and damage, meaning the infected dental pulp, bacteria and infected debris need to be removed.

2. How do you know if you need a root canal?

You should see your dentist for an examination if:

  • You have severe toothache pain from chewing.
  • Your tooth hurts longer than it should after exposure to hot or cold temperatures.
  • Your tooth is darkening or becoming discolored.
  • You have swollen and tender gums around a tooth, or you are experiencing a “rotten” taste in your mouth. You may have a dental abscess.

However, sometimes, a person may show no symptoms at all. That’s why it’s important to schedule regular appointments with your dentist for check-ups.

3. What is the root canal procedure?

A root canal procedure is highly effective. It has a 95 percent success rate, and teeth fixed with root canal therapy can last a lifetime.

In a nutshell, the infected nerve and pulp are removed during the root canal procedure. Then, the tooth’s interior is cleaned and sealed.

Although rumored to be severely painful, patients report the root canal procedure is the same, if not less painful than filling a cavity.

The Procedure In Detail:

First, your dentist or endodontist will X-ray your mouth to examine the shape of the root canal(s) and determine if there’s any infection present in the bone structure surrounding the tooth.

After numbing the treatment area with an anesthetic, a “rubber dam” will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free from saliva.

Then your dentist will drill an access hole into your tooth to remove the infected pulp along with any bacteria or decayed nerve tissue.

After draining the infected area, he or she will use a file to scrape and scrub the sides of your root canal, and flush out any lingering debris. The open canal space where once your nerve was is filled with a material called gutta percha.

The tooth is now ready to be sealed. Often, the final treatment needed is a dental crown over the tooth to support the remaining tooth structure and restore the function of the treated tooth.

Some dentists choose to place a crown over the root canal right away, while some may have you return a week or so later. The latter is likely if you have an infection that needs medication to heal before a crown can be placed there.

4. Why does a root canal need a crown?

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that usually needs to be placed over a root canal treated tooth to protect the remaining tooth structure and replace the function of the molar teeth, which is chewing and grinding food.

However, a crown may be necessary if one of your front teeth have not been root canal treated. Because we do not typically chew or grind with our front teeth, the structure is usually less compromised than the structure of a molar tooth.

Want to know more about the nuts and bolts of dental crowns? Click here.

5. How much does a dental crown cost?

A dental crown can be an investment after a root canal. However, if a crown is not placed over a tooth that has had a root canal, there is a greater risk of that tooth breaking. You need to protect your weaker, natural teeth after a root canal.

The crown material you choose, your insurance, your geographic location and the type of procedure you have can all influence the price of your crown.

For more on what influences the cost of dental crowns, click here.

6. What should you do if your dental crown falls out?

Find your crown immediately. If you think you swallowed it, call your dentist or doctor right away. You may need to go in for an X-Ray to ensure it went down your esophagus, not your windpipe.

Then schedule an appointment at your dentist’s office. He or she will want to see you as soon as possible, usually within 24 to 48 hours.

For a comprehensive list of what to do (and not to do) when your crown falls out, click here.

7. What can you do for the pain?

The root canal procedure should ease the intense pain you experienced before the procedure. But you may experience some discomfort after the procedure. For that, take ibuprofen or Tylenol.

A root canal procedure is not as daunting or scary as it seems. It’s a very common procedure, and you should be back on your feet the next day. However, if you are still experiencing pain one week after the procedure, talk to your dentist.


Call us today with any questions or to book your appointment!

Glendale:  414-352-1600 or Greendale:  414-421-2303


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