Root Canal FAQ

What is a root canal?

Inside the tooth there is a nerve and blood supply (also called the pulp) lying in a canal in the middle of your tooth. It can be thought of as akin to the bone marrow space inside a long bone, like your thigh bone. When the pulp become injured, it starts to deteriorate. This may be accompanied by pain, but not always. Pain levels can vary from none at all to horrible. In order to stop the further deterioration of your nerve and to prevent or stop an abscess, root canal treatment is performed. A root canal involves thoroughly numbing the tooth and placing a rubber dam (a latex sheet that isolates your tooth and prevents saliva from contaminating the inside of your tooth). Then we remove the affected pulp tissue, disinfect the canal, and place a filling. The whole process usually takes between 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

I’m worried about x-rays. Should I be?

No. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontic treatment, the level of radiation received during a dental x-ray is equivalent to the background radiation received from a trans-Atlantic flight or a day at the mountains. If spending a day at Big Bear doesn’t concern you, then neither should dental x-rays.

Are root canals painful?

Again, there’s no need for concern. Your comfort is of utmost concern to us, therefore we thoroughly anesthetize your tooth prior to your root canal. We do not begin working until your tooth is numb.

What about infection control?

We adhere to the most rigorous standards of infection control advocated by OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association. We utilize autoclave sterilization and barrier techniques to eliminate any risk of infection.

What happens after treatment?

Most people are surprised at how comfortable their tooth feels after root canal treatment. The tooth and surrounding tissues will feel sore, about the same amount as after routine dental work. If you need medication to control the discomfort then over the counter analgesics are usually sufficient. After treatment a report will be sent to your restorative dentist. You should contact their office for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion of your root canal. Your restorative dentist will decide on what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth. It is rare for patients to experience complications after routine root canal treatment. If a problem does occur, however, we are available at all times to respond.