What Exactly Happens During Root Canal Treatment?

When the soft part of the tooth, called the pulp, is damaged in any way, a root canal treatment is performed. Root canal treatment is used to rescue a poorly damaged tooth, instead of removing it. It eliminates bacterial growth and results in the elimination of infection, and also guards the tooth against additional infection. Since it includes thorough cleaning, it can be painful, but the use of anaesthetics makes it totally bearable.

The common causes of damage to the pulp include: decay due to caries and cavities, many dental procedures performed on the same tooth, an injury that causes harm to the tooth, etc. The enamel and dentin layer are unaffected because of these conditions. Risk factors like a persistent disease (like diabetes), impoverished oral health, drinking un-fluoridated water, poor lifestyle patterns, etc. also contribute to damage to pulp.

One should head to a dental professional when experiencing symptoms like toothache, swollen gums and warm and sore feeling gums. After the procedure, the patient will be most likely numb. It will not interfere in daily routines.

The root canal procedure

Usually completed in one or two visits, here’s exactly what happens during a Root Canal procedure:


Your dental expert will take an X-Ray of the tooth to determine the structure of the root canal and will look for potential infection in the enclosing bones. The interior of the gums and teeth are examined. The X-Ray will be performed with low frequency radiations. The radiation level, being extremely low, hardly causes any considerable harm. Dental X-rays may sound like a tricky procedure but are extremely simple. Along with X-Ray examination, your dentist will sometimes physically examine your mouth to infer the problem better.


Root canal procedure can be uncomfortable, so the patient is given an anaesthetic injection to numb the pain. The numbing sensation lasts for only a few hours, you will be able to feel your teeth again after a few hours. Local anaesthesia is administered. It will have no effect on you except for numbing the tooth. You will remain awake during the procedure, and the pain will not be intolerable. Let your dentist know if you have any allergies, so that other options can be considered.

Rubber dam

A sheet of rubber is placed around the tooth to keep it dry and unaffected from saliva. It is helpful in isolating the affected area, so that it can be operated on easily. It protects the cheek, lips, gums, etc. parts of the mouth. Dental dams are completely safe to use.

Removal of pulp

An opening is made on the top section of the tooth using a drill to reach to the pulp chamber of the tooth. This exposes the affected pulp. The decaying and rotting pulp matter, bacteria and rotten nerve tissue are removed using special dental tools. The drill procedure is highly misunderstood and is believed to be painful. There is no need to be worried about the drill, as new technology has made it highly effective and sufficiently painless. Teeth which are given proper anaesthesia undergo this process fairly painlessly. After the drill procedure, the surrounding areas are cleaned and disinfected.

Cleaning and shaping

Antibiotics are used to clean up the area surrounding the tooth under operation. Water and sometimes sodium hypochlorite is sprayed to wash away the debris. It ensures that the infection will not occur again. Adequate space is made for the filling. On the same or next visit, a paste is used to seal up the tooth interior. Gutta-percha is the most widely used filler. It is a rubber latex-like material. Oral antibiotics are furthermore prescribed. After filling the gutta-percha, the opening of the top section of the tooth is packed with a soft material. It seals the space and ensures food cannot enter the built cavity. This does not require administration of anaesthetic.


Due to the filling, and previous decay, the tooth becomes weak. The final step is to protect it from possible future damage. For the same, a crown or an artificial tooth is placed above the tooth. It is also recommended to not chew anything hard until the crown is placed, and the procedure is completely finished. The patient usually has to wait for a few days while the crown is being constructed. At the final appointment, the filling may be removed, and the crown is placed over the top of the tooth, making the tooth fine again.

Recovery and complications

Root canal procedures leave the tooth feeling sore as it obviously is not a light treatment but focuses on the permanent correction. Here’s what you can do to recover quickly:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride enriched toothpaste, twice a day
  • Floss regularly
  • Avoid eating hard food items
  • Take medications if prescribed
  • Avoid sugary food

Since it involves a lot of work, after the treatment patients often experience various complications. The following are some issues you may experience, but rest assured all of this can be treated.

  • Due to tissue and gum irritation, the tooth may be left feeling sore
  • Sensitivity is experienced in increased intensity if there was infection before the procedure
  • Continued infection is sometimes observed if the bacteria are not completely removed. This problem can be solved easily, so contact your dentist professional immediately.
  • The seal of the tooth can be broken. Again, this is also fixable, so just contact your dentist.

Medications like ibuprofen are given to make the soreness bearable. If the pain persists after a few days and even after medication, quickly contact your dentist. Redness and swelling around the tooth should also be looked out for. A root canal is a wiser choice than extracting the whole tooth. A major advantage of root canal over tooth removal is the cost efficiency. Root canal is more cost-efficient than tooth removal. Plus, it is effective for a lifetime. After taking the treatment, some people report that the procedure itself hurts less than the pain experienced due to the damaged tooth. This treatment is the correct choice for improving tooth conditions permanently.