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What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is one of the most feared dental procedures, and many of our patients dread it. 

However, it might be reassuring to know that when done correctly, it’s usually no more painful or uncomfortable than any other dental procedure. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about root canal treatment, including what it is, why it's necessary, how to determine if you need one, and what happens during the procedure.

What is a Root Canal?

So what exactly is a root canal? 

Root canal treatment is a dental procedure that effectively alleviates discomfort and pain caused by an abscessed or infected tooth. The procedure involves removing the infected pulp, cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces of the tooth, and sealing the area with a filling.

There are several benefits to saving the natural tooth with root canal therapy, these are:

  • The ability to chew more effectively
  • The return of normal biting force and sensation 
  • A natural appearance of the tooth that’s infected 
  • Other teeth are protected from excessive wear or strain

What Causes A Root Canal?

Root canals occur when a tooth is badly decayed or seriously infected. Bacteria can penetrate the pulp of a tooth and create an infection. 

When this happens, root canal therapy is required to save the tooth. The infected pulp is removed during a root canal, and the tooth is sealed to avoid reinfection.

How to Identify if You Need a Root Canal

So, how can you determine if you need a root canal?

A tooth may require a root canal if it is showing one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • A sharp or constant pain that may be severe enough to disrupt daily activities
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, which may cause pain when eating or drinking hot or cold foods and drinks
  • Swelling or redness in the gums surrounding the affected tooth, indicating inflammation
  • Pain or discomfort when biting down or applying pressure to the tooth, which may make it difficult to chew
  • Discoloration or darkening of the tooth, which can be a sign of an infection or internal damage
  • Pus drainage, which can be a sign of an abscess (a pocket of infection)
  • A small bump or pimple on the gums near the affected tooth, which can also indicate an abscess
  • A bad taste in the mouth or bad breath, which can be caused by an infection
  • Loose or wiggly tooth, which can be a sign that the infection has damaged the supporting bone

It's important to note that not all symptoms will be present in every case and some teeth may not show any signs of infection until the problem becomes severe. A dentist will be able to diagnose if a root canal is required and will recommend the best treatment option for you.


A root canal treatment is performed to heal the interior of a tooth that has been damaged or infected. Root canal therapy is also sometimes referred to as endodontic treatment. 

The good news is that endodontic treatment generally has a great success rate. Approximately 90-95% of people who undergo the treatment can expect to have a functional tooth after the procedure. By practicing good oral hygiene, limiting your intake of sugary foods, and visiting the dentist regularly, you can ensure that your tooth will last for an extended period of time.

Root Canal Procedure

A root canal is a dental procedure that is used to treat a tooth that has become infected or inflamed. The procedure is performed by a dentist or endodontist (a specialist in treating the inside of the tooth) and is used to remove the infected or inflamed pulp from the inside of the tooth. 

The pulp is the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels.

The procedure is typically done in one or more visits, and it starts with taking X-rays to determine the extent of the infection and to check the shape of the root canals. Then the dentist will numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. 

Next, a small hole is made in the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber and root canals. Using specialized tools, the dentist will remove the infected or inflamed pulp, including any bacteria and debris present. Once the pulp is removed, the dentist will clean and shape the root canals, which are the small, thin channels that run from the pulp chamber to the end of the tooth roots.

After the root canals are cleaned, the dentist will fill the root canals with a rubber-like substance that helps to seal the canals and prevent re-infection. The dentist may also place a temporary filling in the tooth to protect it until the next visit.

In the next visit, the dentist will remove the temporary filling and place a permanent filling or crown (a cap that covers the top of the tooth) to protect the tooth and restore its shape and function.

After the root canal procedure, the tooth may be tender for a few days, but this can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. The tooth will continue to function normally, but it is important to maintain good oral hygiene and have regular dental check-ups to ensure the treated tooth is healthy.

Is Root Canal Therapy Painful?

If you’re worried about the procedure being painful, then rest assured, it’s not. A local anesthetic is usually used, and the procedure should feel no different than having a regular filling done. There may be some tenderness thereafter, but this should progressively fade.

How To Prevent Needing A Root Canal

The first step in minimizing your risk of a root canal infection is to take good care of your teeth. 

This means maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting the dentist at least once every six months. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste. Also, drinks and foods heavy in acid, starch, and sugar should all be avoided if you want to maintain a healthy set of pearly whites.

Although sometimes trauma is unavoidable, it’s best to avoid activities that could result in a significant blow to your teeth. If you do have an accident though, schedule an appointment with a dentist as soon as you notice chips or fractures.

At Family Dental Health, we create an environment that guarantees patients are satisfied when they arrive and happy when they leave. We use cutting-edge technologies and treatments with a kind and compassionate approach that will ease all your dental anxieties. 

We also always try to educate our patients so that they can confidently participate in the decision-making process. This approach to dentistry has ensured our success here in the Idaho Falls area for the past 40 years, and we intend to continue delivering the same service to the area for the next 40 years.

Our team of dentists in Idaho Falls is dedicated to providing quality care. Call us today at (208) 529-0120 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced dentists today.