If you have ever awoken to a dull throbbing pain in your tooth, you know how painful it can be.

When bacteria find a way into the pulp of your tooth, they can cause an infection that requires a root canal to save your tooth and clear out the infection. The longer you wait, the more severe the infection could be. Don’t be tempted to wait it out. Call your dentist for a consultation as soon as possible.

Read on below as we explain everything you need to know about root canals from the procedure to recovery.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a safe and effective procedure that is performed by a dental professional to alleviate pain caused by an infected or abscessed tooth. During the procedure, your dental professional will remove any inflamed pulp from your tooth, clean the inside surfaces of your tooth, and then disinfect the area thoroughly. Lastly, a filling will be placed in the hole and sealed to prevent further infection.

Root canals are very common and have a success rate of up to 98%.

How Do I Know if I Need a Root Canal?

The only sure way to know if you need a root canal is by seeing your dentist. If you have had a prior root canal, you may be familiar with the sensation the infection causes. Your dentist can look at the painful tooth and quickly tell you whether bacteria have taken over. If so, they will likely recommend that you undergo a root canal procedure as soon as possible to clear the infection.

What Symptoms Mean I Need a Root Canal?

It is possible that you may not know if you have an infected tooth. Usually, people who have an infected tooth that requires a root canal will experience some or all of the following symptoms.

Constant Tooth Pain

Usually, this is a deep, aching pain. It may also radiate to your jaw, face, or surrounding teeth.

Heat/Cold Sensitivity

If your tooth hurts or is sensitive when you drink hot or cold items, it could signal an infection. Pain that lasts for more than a few seconds is especially indicative.

Gum Swelling

Watch out for tender, red, or swollen gums in the area where your tooth pain is located.

Tooth Changes

Alwaysconsider changes in your teeth as they could be signs that there could be bigger problems at play. Sudden tooth discoloration, movement, or cracks always warrant a call to your dentist.

Pain or Swelling

Facial swelling along your gum line or pain when you touch your face should alert you to a possible problem. It is a good reason to schedule an appointment with your dentist.

Gum Pimples/Boils

Boils along your gums may develop if you have an infected tooth. Foul smelling or tasting pus may drain from the boil.

What Happens During the Root Canal Process?

Once your dentist determines that you do need a root canal, they will explain the procedure to you.

Below are the steps you can expect during your root canal procedure, which usually takes an hour or less from beginning to end.


A local anesthesia will be used to numb the infected tooth and the surrounding gums. Some people may opt to receive heavier sedation. Discuss this with your dentist.

Dental Dam

At the beginning of your root canal, your dentist will place a small rubber “dam” over the infected area. This will ensure that the affected tooth is the only tooth visible during the procedure.


Your dentist will create a small opening in the crown of your tooth to access the infected pulp.

Pulp Removal

Your dentist has specialized instruments to remove the nerves, blood vessels, and tissues inside the infected tooth.


After your dentist has removed all the infected pulp from your tooth, they willclean, disinfect, and re-shape your canal.

Filling & Sealing

Now that your tooth canal is cleaned and prepared for the next steps, your dentist will fill it with a flexible, rubbery substance called gutta-percha and then seal your tooth to prevent bacteria from re-entering.

Dental Crowns

For the final step, your dentist will place a crown on the top of your tooth to protect it and restore your bite. To do this, your temporary filling will be removed before your permanent crown is placed. This is not always done on the same day as the root canal.

After the Procedure

Most people feel immediate relief after a root canal because the pain was caused by the infection. You should not experience pain after your procedure that can’t be managed with prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers. Usually, patients return to their pre-infection state within a week or two.

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