Root Canal Procedure: What I Need To Know

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about root canal treatments. It’s an invasive procedure that most people dread. Root canal treatments are done to save teeth that have been damaged by tooth decay or trauma and are usually the last resort in terms of treatment options. This therapy has been performed for many years. It is an effective way of removing dead pulp without extracting the natural tooth. 

Root canals are generally safe and effective for most people who need them. If you are considering a root canal, it’s essential to get treatment as soon as possible. Delay can lead to increased pain and make the procedure more complicated.

This endodontic treatment is an invasive dental procedure that most people try to avoid. However, suppose your tooth becomes infected, and you experience significant pain in the area. In that case, it may be necessary for you to undergo a root canal procedure. If this sounds like something that might be relevant to you or someone you know, read on for more information about what root canal procedures are all about.

What is Root Canal?

A tooth comprises two parts: the crown, which sits over the gum tissue, and the roots. These roots are anchored to your jawbone.

A root canal is the centre section of the tooth that houses the nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and pulp. The pulp is the soft, fleshy centre of a tooth where all the parts necessary to keep your teeth alive are found. Meanwhile, the nerves in this area transmit pain signals to your brain; thus, it is an area capable of sensing hot and cold temperatures. 

However, let’s suppose bacteria gets in between these teeth or below your gum line to invade this soft tissue area. In that case, it’ll result in serious complications. In addition to pain, you may experience infection because there is no drainage for fluid buildup under your tooth. 

Furthermore, root canal therapy is done to save your tooth. It involves removing damaged or dead nerve tissue inside an infected pulp chamber of the tooth so that it does not spread to other parts of your body.

Learn More: What Is a Root Canal: Everything You Need to Know

How Do I Know If I Need a Root Canal?

Root canal treatments are usually done to save an infected tooth from a severe decay that would otherwise need to be extracted. 

Assume you have any swelling, discolouration, or pain near your tooth. In that case, you should consult your dentist to determine if you need a root canal. 

Here are the common signs that you need root canal therapy: 


The constant throbbing and aching in your tooth might be indicative of something worse than you think. Your pain may linger or may also come back sooner than expected after disappearing.

In many cases, the toothache starts deep in your mouth. You may feel a sharp pain that is most noticeable when you try to chew or touch it with a finger. It can also be accompanied by other symptoms like headaches, jaw aches, and gum tenderness if there’s an infection deep in the roots.

Sensitivity to heat and cold

If your teeth hurt when you drink or eat something hot or cold, it may be because the blood vessels and nerves in your teeth are infected or damaged. Moreover, those seeking root canal therapy may find their tooth sensitivity lasts long after contact with anything hot or cold. It is usually described as dull or sharp pain.


If your teeth are discoloured, you may have pulpitis. The roots of the teeth can become damaged in many ways, which result in grey-black discolouration. If this happens, it’s best to consult with your dentist as soon as possible so that they can diagnose and treat any issues before things get worse.

Swollen Gums or Abscess

Sometimes, when there’s swelling around your teeth or mouth, which may or may not be painful, but you know something needs attention. When an infection in the tooth spreads to the surrounding tissue, it can cause gum inflammation. 

Furthermore, a bacterial infection in a tooth can create pus or abscess, which is painful and uncomfortable to deal with. A periapical abscess develops at the tip of a root, and a periodontal abscess originates near the side of the root.

When the pulp tissues die because of infection, they release acidic substances that cause swelling around your root tip. Thus, any swelling warrants an immediate visit with your dentist because it could become more severe if left untreated.

Loose Tooth

When your tooth feels like it is about to fall out, you should not ignore the sensation. It can happen when there is not enough blood flow to the nerves of a dying tooth and acid from nerve death softens up bone around its root, which means loose teeth on top may indicate painless decay underneath.

Learn More: Common Signs I Need a Root Canal Treatment

Root Canal Procedure

A root canal procedure is a dental treatment that removes infected tissue from the inner layer of the tooth. It is a procedure that can be done by either your general dentist or an endodontist. However, suppose it is a complicated or complex case. In that case, your general dentist will recommend you see an endodontist since they specialise in treating the dental pulp or tooth nerve tissues.


Your initial appointment, the licensed dentist may take an X-ray to see if there are any signs of infection around the tooth structure. After a thorough examination and evaluation, the root canal specialist will start by numbing the area using local anaesthesia, which helps you go through the process without feeling any pain.

Furthermore, to keep the tooth dry and clean during treatment, the dentist will use a rubber dam to encase the tooth. Aside from shielding the inside of your mouth from saliva, it also acts as a protective barrier so that if any particles or objects fall into your mouth, you won’t swallow them.

Opening the Tooth

Next, the experienced dentist will drill a hole to access the inside of the tooth. Then all the damaged, decayed nerve tissue is scraped away using tiny root canal files. They work down the entire length of the root, scraping all sides to remove any remaining infected tissue. This process clears this whole area before it’s filled with a biocompatible material to form a barrier against future infection.


The area will be sprayed with sterile water or sodium hypochlorite when the work is complete to remove any debris. A dentist sprays disinfecting solution and suctions it out repeatedly multiple times to ensure the area is sterile.

Root Shaping

One of the many essential steps in a root canal treatment is shaping the canals to fill them. However, it is pretty tricky due to its irregular shape and size. This process is performed to ensure all the damaged tissues are eliminated from the canal and give ample space for root filling.

Fortunately, most dentists now use rotary tools, which are quicker and more efficient, thus delivering better results, unlike the time-consuming manual filing that was used in the past.

Root Filling –

After your tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it is sealed. Suppose it is a complex procedure that cannot be completed in one dental visit. In that case, the dentist will soak the roots with medication to kill any bacteria left behind. Then a temporary dental filling is placed to prevent food and saliva from getting into the teeth between appointments. 

On the next dental visit, the temporary filling will be removed and replaced with a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta-percha. Filling then seals off the access hole created at the start of treatment.

In some cases, a dental crown may be needed to strengthen the weakened tooth to restore its function. Your dentist will review with you what additional dental work may be required.

What to Expect after Root Canal Treatment?

Following instructions from your dentist after an endodontic procedure will prevent any complications. General guidelines only apply in most circumstances, so you must follow the specifics given by your doctor.

You will be recommended to take pain medication and maintain excellent oral hygiene. It would be best if you also wait before eating food again while you are numb. It is best not to use the tooth that has been treated until it heals completely, as this could lead to further damage.

People who have undergone a root canal process should expect some soreness and tenderness in the tooth region. Still, they should contact their dentist as soon as they experience any of the following symptoms for an extended period of time:

  • If tooth pain and pressure last more than a day or two
  • Swollen gums
  • Allergic reaction to a medication
  • If your permanent crown falls off or the permanent filling comes out
  • Bite problem
  • You had the same symptoms before your root canal procedure.

Final Thoughts

We hope you feel confident in the information we’ve shared and that it’s helped you better understand what to expect when visiting a dentist for your root canal procedure.

With so many misconceptions about it, it’s no surprise that people are hesitant to make an appointment. But with a small investment of time and money, you can ensure your teeth stay healthy for years to come. If you have any questions or concerns about what a root canal is or if it’s right for you, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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Peel Dental Studio

Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.