The Facts About Root Canals

Root canal – merely mentioning these two words can make many of us quite uneasy. There are plenty of misconceptions and a fair bit of fear surrounding this common dental procedure. In this article, we aim to demystify root canals, separating fact from fiction, and providing you with accurate information about what to expect during this treatment.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure designed to save a badly damaged or infected tooth. The ‘root canal’ is actually the part of the tooth that houses the nerve and blood vessels (pulp). When the pulp becomes infected or damaged, a root canal procedure is often the best way to save the tooth.

During a root canal procedure, the dentist first administers local anesthesia to numb the affected tooth and surrounding area, ensuring the patient’s comfort. Once the area is numb, a small protective sheet called a dental dam is placed over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure. The dentist then drills an opening in the crown of the tooth to access the infected or damaged pulp inside. Using specialized instruments, the dentist carefully removes the pulp, cleans the inner chamber of the tooth, and shapes it for filling. 

The space is then filled with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called gutta-percha, and sealed with adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In many cases, a temporary or permanent crown is placed over the tooth to restore its shape, function, and appearance. The entire process aims to alleviate pain and save the tooth from extraction, preserving the patient’s natural dentition.

Post-procedure, you might experience some sensitivity, but this is typically manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers. Recovery is generally quick, and most people can return to their normal activities the next day. With proper care, a tooth that has had a root canal can last a lifetime.

Why Do You Need a Root Canal?

Root canals are necessary to treat teeth that have become badly decayed or infected, offering a way to save the tooth that might otherwise need to be extracted. When the pulp, the soft inner tissue of a tooth containing nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue, becomes infected or inflamed due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures, cracks, or chips, it can lead to severe pain and swelling, and potentially cause an abscess. If left untreated, this infection can spread to surrounding tissues, leading to further oral health complications, and potentially affecting overall health. A root canal removes the infected or inflamed pulp, cleans and disinfects the inside of the tooth, and then fills and seals it, relieving pain and preventing further spread of infection. By preserving the natural tooth, root canal treatment also helps maintain proper chewing function, normal biting force and sensation, and supports the natural appearance of the tooth.

Debunking Myths

One of the most common myths about root canals is that they are excruciatingly painful. However, with today’s anesthesia and pain management techniques, most patients report that the procedure is no more uncomfortable than getting a filling. Another myth is that root canals cause illness. Comprehensive studies and research have debunked this, proving root canals to be safe and effective.


Root canals are a common and highly successful dental procedure aimed at saving natural teeth and preventing more serious oral health issues. They are safe, effective, and much less painful than most people believe. If you think you might need a root canal, consult with your dentist as soon as possible for personalized advice and treatment options.

Dr. Snehlata Kulhari

Dr. Snehlata Kulhari completed her Bachelors of Dental Surgery (BDS) at Government Dental College in Punjab, India and her Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine in Boston. She has been practicing dentistry since 2011 and has founded Smile Mantra Family Dentistry to provide dental care and education to the community of Cary, NC. Dr. Kulhari stays up to date on the latest dental research and advancements in order to offer her patients exceptional dental care. 


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