Root Canal Procedure 101: What to Expect Before & After

Each year more than 15 million root canal procedures are performed across the globe. Generally speaking, the root canal gets a bad rap. 

In fact, you’ve probably even heard the expression: I’d rather have a root canal than … Fill in the blank with other less desirable things. 

Would it surprise you to know that 54% of people would rather sing the national anthem at a sporting event than get a root canal? How about the 57% who would rather spend an hour in a room with ten spiders? 55% of people would rather be trapped in an elevator than go have the dreaded root canal.

Of course, the root canal is getting a bad rap here. Advancements in dental care have made the root canal procedure much easier and more tolerable than its reputation would suggest. 

So, if you’re about to have a root canal, what should you expect? What do you need to do before your root canal? Most importantly, what should you expect to feel following your root canal procedure?

Read on to learn everything you need to know about your upcoming root canal procedure. 

What Is a Root Canal Procedure?

A root canal is a dental procedure that addresses a need in the inner part of your tooth. Like the skin on your body or the bones inside your body, your teeth have many layers. You know from your regular dental care how important it is to brush and floss to care for the visible layers of your teeth. 

The inside layer of your tooth is made up of dental pulp. When a problem arises in the dental pulp, then you need to have a root canal. Typically, the dental pulp becomes infected. This can happen because of an untreated cavity or a crack or chip in the tooth.

The dentist will remove the infected dental pulp during the root canal, seal the tooth up, and then place a crown on the tooth to protect it going forward. 

What Is Dental Pulp?

In order to better understand the root canal procedure and what happens during and after the root canal, you need to know what the dentist is doing during the root canal. 

Below the enamel layer of your teeth is dentin. Dentin is a soft layer of your tooth, and it has a chamber with the dental pulp in it. 

This dental pulp contains the blood vessels of the tooth, nerves, and connective tissues. This is the reason when you feel pain in your tooth; your dentist will consider whether there’s a problem in the dental pulp and a root canal is necessary.

Signs You Might Need a Root Canal Procedure

You may go to your dentist with pain in your mouth. Your teeth will tell you, almost always, when there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. 

There are some signs you may need a root canal treatment. These signs include:

  • Gum swelling 
  • Deep cavity
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Sensitivity to cold and hot substances in your mouth
  • Severe pain in your mouth
  • Severe toothaches
  • Gum discoloration

Your teeth are working to communicate with you when you feel pain after chewing or applying pressure to your teeth.

Before the Root Canal

Aside from paying attention to how your mouth is communicating with you, you don’t need to do much to prepare for your root canal. 

If you felt pain or had another symptom, you’ve done the critical step to prepare for the root canal. You got it checked out.

What Happens During the Root Canal Procedure?

The root canal procedure is most often broken up into three separate appointments. The first appointment is the most significant part of the procedure. 

When you arrive for your root canal, your mouth will be given a local anesthetic. You shouldn’t feel any pain during the procedure. 

The dentist will protect the tooth area that’s being worked on so they don’t infect other teeth around the tooth. The dentist will drill into the tooth to get to the problem area. They will remove any infected dental pulp. Then the tooth will be scrubbed to be certain no infection is left. 

Then the tooth is sealed. The dentist uses a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha to fill in the areas where they removed the infection. This helps to secure the hollowed-out tooth.  Following the root canal procedure, a temporary crown will be put in place while your tooth heals. 

A short time after this appointment, you’ll see the dentist again to have a perminant crown placed on the tooth to keep it strong. 

Things to Know for Right After Your Root Canal 

Immediately after the root canal, your mouth will still feel numb from the local anesthetic. If you feel okay about it, you should be able to drive yourself. You had only a local anesthetic for the procedure.

Some people might even opt to return to work following the procedure. 

As the anesthetic wears off, you will feel some tenderness. The nerves in the tooth will be reacting to all that’s happened inside the tooth. 

You want to avoid chewing directly on the tooth for a while. You probably also want to avoid very cold or hot foods while the nerves settle down. 

What to Expect After the Procedure

You can expect to resume your normal activities following a root canal procedure and shouldn’t face any limitations. You may have some normal sensitivity for several days following the procedure. 

You should resume your regular oral dental hygiene practices to keep the tooth clean.

The dentist will want to see you again within a few weeks to place the crown on the tooth. Again, this crown helps to strengthen the tooth so it can remain strong and healthy going forward. 

Be Prepared for Your Root Canal Procedure

Advances in dentistry have made the root canal procedure much less daunting than its reputation deserves. Be prepared for some light pain and sensitivity that goes away relatively quickly after the procedure. 

If you’re experiencing dental pain or just need to find a dentist to take over your dental care, we can help. Contact us today to set up your appointment. 


Table of Contents

More Blog Posts

Request an Appointment Today

Questions or concerns about a specific dental service or procedure? Contact us now.