What is a root canal?

A painful tooth can only make your life miserable. Most of the time, pain in the gums or difficulty eating and chewing can come from an infection of the tooth root canal. What is a root canal, what are the signs to look out for, when to visit your dentist, and what to expect from a root canal treatment? We tell you everything in this article!

What is a root canal procedure?

To understand better what is a root canal, its symptoms, and its cost (root canal cost), the root canal's meaning needs to be defined. Put simply, a root canal treatment involves a procedure performed under local anesthesia. The purpose of root canal surgery is to treat an infection that has taken place at the center of the tooth. The procedure eliminates the bacteria from the inflamed or infected root canal, preventing further infection of the tooth and saving the natural tooth along the way.  

Why do I need a root canal?

As soon as you feel a toothache, you need to consult your dentist. If dental x-rays show infection of the root canal (i.e. the center of your tooth), root canal treatment will be needed. X-rays will show that a bacterial infection has damaged the pulp, making it inflamed and spreading the bacteria even further. This will lead to pain when eating and a loose tooth. Mainly, a root canal infection happens after tooth decay, leaky teeth fillings, or damaged teeth due to injury.

How is a root canal done?

Basically, root canal dentistry involves removing the inflamed or infected pulp from the inside of the tooth. After that, your dentist will clean and disinfect the tooth, fill it, and seal it properly. Root canal surgery is required to remove the bacteria from the infected root canal. Another way is to completely extract the tooth, which is usually not recommended as it will involve other procedures to replace the missing tooth, increasing your costs (read all about root canal costs here - root canal cost). A root canal surgery is 90% of the time successful and done under a local anesthetic, meaning it is painless.

How long does root canal treatment take?

After deciding to go through with the root canal surgery, your root canal dentist will be able to perform it in one appointment. After numbing the area of your inflamed or infected tooth, the procedure will take less than an hour. Your gums will remain a bit painful and uncomfortable for a few days after the procedure, but over-the-counter painkillers should do the trick. It is also important to prevent another root canal treatment by:

1. Practicing good oral hygiene
2. Avoiding sugar
3. Giving up smoking

4 signs you may need root canal therapy

To know when is a root canal needed and to avoid reaching a strong infection, it is important to be aware of root canal symptoms. Here are a few signs you can pay attention to:

Sign 1 - A sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks

While a lot of people have sensitive teeth, this is a different kind. When the sensitivity to hot or cold food or drinks lingers (i.e. stays even after the absence of the sensation), it is enough of a reason to visit your dentist.

Sign 2 - Severe pain when eating

If chewing or biting food on your tooth causes severe pain, it probably means you need root canal treatment due to inflammation or even infection of the root canal.

Sign 3 - Swollen gums

Swollen gums are a clear sign of inflammation or infection. If your gums hurt, feel tender, or have darkened, or if you can spot pimples on them, call your dentist up right away.

Sign 4 - Chipped or cracked tooth

When your tooth is chipped or cracked, it counts as a root canal symptom.

What does a root canal look like?

A dental root canal will appear clearly on a dental x-ray. The inside of the tooth looks infected. The outside of the tooth will sometimes look cracked or chipped and the gums around it may be inflamed, red or even darkened.

Final Points

Defining a root canal and being aware of what is a root canal is important to get treatment and prevent further infections or tooth extraction. Root canal treatment is a local anesthesia procedure that your dentist will be able to perform at their clinic at a fair cost (root canal cost). Contrary to painful root canal procedures that were done in the past, dental root canal treatment is not a routine procedure that is uncomfortable for just a few days. Good oral hygiene is crucial to maintaining healthy teeth and gums, especially after going through a dental root canal.


At what age are root canals common?

The age range for root canals is vast. It can start at 12 years old or at 65 years old. There is no specific age for root canals and their treatments.

How do I avoid a root canal?

It all starts with good oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth and cleaning them well twice a day is the basis for healthy teeth and gums. Avoiding hard foods is also a way to prevent cracking your teeth.

Are root canals done under anesthesia?

Your dentist will use a local anesthetic in the form of numbing cream. Root canal procedures are done in your dentist's clinic.

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