What to Expect Before, During, and After Your Root Canal

Family Dentist

There’s no hiding it — root canals aren’t fun. If you’ve been told you need a root canal, it’s normal to have questions and worries about the procedure. Fortunately, a root canal isn’t the painful, scary procedure it used to be. In fact, modern root canals are similar to routine fillings and are usually done in one or two appointments. 

Our highly skilled team of dentists at Trident Dental group in Houston are specialists at performing this common procedure, and we’ve put together this guide to ease your anxiety about having a root canal. Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your root canal. 

Before: Why do I need a root canal?

Root canals preserve an infected or badly decayed tooth. The procedure gets its name from the affected area of the tooth — a tooth’s root canal is the space inside your tooth that contains dental pulp and the tooth’s nerve. 

When decay spreads to the nerve, or if the area becomes infected, root canals are typically the best option to preserve your tooth and end oral pain. Your dentist achieves this by removing the dead or dying tissue and eliminating bacteria.   

Signs that you might have an infected tooth include:

  • Inflammation of the gums
  • Sensitivity to cold and hot temperatures
  • Pain when chewing
  • Pus around your tooth
  • Throbbing in your mouth or jaw
  • Darkening of the affected tooth
  • A pimple-like bump on your gums

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, contact the team at Trident Dental for an evaluation. Waiting to deal with a decayed or infected tooth creates more problems down the line and increases the amount of pain you face.

During: What is a root canal procedure like?

An X-ray is usually taken prior to your root canal to see the size and shape of the root and look for signs that the infection has spread to the surrounding bone. This may be done at a previous appointment or immediately before your procedure.

At your root canal appointment, you receive local anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding area to ensure you don’t feel any pain. Often, a dental dam (a small sheet of rubber) is placed around the tooth to keep it clean, dry, and saliva-free during the root canal. 

Once you’re numb, the dentist creates a small opening in your infected tooth using special tools called root canal files and conducts a pulpectomy — removing the diseased pulp, decayed tissue, and any bacteria from the tooth. Then the area is thoroughly cleaned to remove any debris. 

Next, your dentist fills the root canals with a material that seals them. You can expect to get a temporary filling or dental crown, if the infection or damage was severe, to seal the hole in your tooth. At a subsequent appointment, your dentist can place a permanent filling or crown. 

After: How long is root canal recovery?

Although you’re numb for 2-4 hours after the procedure, most patients return to work or school that day. You should avoid chewing hard foods immediately after a root canal, and if you receive a temporary crown, you shouldn’t chew at all on that side until you receive your permanent crown. 

Pain or sensitivity after root canals is usually mild, similar to what you experience when receiving a filling. Over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help ease any discomfort after your procedure. If you have continued or increasing pain, or if you notice any swelling, contact your dentist.

Do you or a family member have symptoms of an infected tooth? Call the office or request a consultation online with the skilled dentists at Trident Dental today.