What to Know Before Your First Root Canal

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
June 21, 2017

Dentist performing root canal

Updated July 2021

So your dentist has uttered that terrible phrase that you never want to hear: “You need a root canal.” And if this is your first root canal ever, you probably have a ton of questions running through your mind, combined with a lot of fear regarding the pain that you might have to endure. Well, we’re here to put your mind at ease.

Below are a few of the things that you should know prior to getting your first root canal. Hopefully, this information will help you prepare for this common dental procedure so it won’t be so scary after all.

Taking the Mystery Out of Root Canals

During a root canal, your dentist will work on getting rid of all of the infected pulp within your problem tooth by drilling into that tooth. He or she will clean out, as well as shape, the inside of your tooth and then fill it in and seal it in order to prevent further problems.

Sometimes a filling is all you need, but other times, that is not enough. Your dentist might recommend a follow-up appointment during which he or she will place a crown on your tooth. This will serve to further protect the tooth so you will be able to chew on it comfortably once again.

A Root Canal Takes Time, but You’ll Be Comfortably Numb

A root canal could take a few hours, during which you will be seated in a chair with your mouth open. This could become uncomfortable, but it is necessary. If you are allowed to listen to music or a podcast while you are undergoing the procedure, it might help to distract you, as well as help the time pass more quickly.

Here is an outline of what you can expect during the root canal:

  1. To keep you as comfortable as possible, your dentist will use local anesthesia, so you will be very numb, which is a great thing because you won’t feel anything. Phew!

    Using a substance that can be described as similar to jelly, your dentist will be able to numb your gums. Then a local anesthetic can be injected into the area that will be treated in order to numb the skin, tongue, gums, and teeth completely.

  2. X-rays will likely be taken to help guide your dentist as he or she works on the damaged tooth.

    Your dentist might also use a rubber dam in order to prevent contamination once the tooth has been opened, as well as to prevent any objects from getting into the mouth and throat.

  3. Using a drill, as well as other dental tools, the pulp of the tooth will be removed. Then, the dentist will fill in the interior portion of the tooth with the appropriate filling.

  4. If you also need a crown, your dentist will make an impression of your tooth after the decay is removed, and a tech will use that impression to form a crown that will match your tooth. You might get a temporary crown in the meantime.

It Isn’t Over When It’s Over

You might think that you can go back to chewing and biting normally once your root canal is complete, but your dentist might advise you to wait until a crown has been placed. This is because chewing on the treated tooth might result in new cracks developing if it is too fragile.

You can also expect that your gums and lips might be numb for a few hours after the root canal. After the anesthetic has worn off, you may experience soreness, sensitivity, or pain. This could last for a couple of days, with the pain typically peaking anywhere from 17-24 hours after the procedure. Keeping your head in an elevated position while you sleep may help, but your dentist can also recommend the appropriate medications for any pain you may encounter.

If you experience any of the following, it is important to contact your dentist right away:

  • Swelling
  • Signs of infection
  • Rash or other allergic reactions
  • Uneven bite
  • Excessive pain
  • Bleeding
  • Fever
  • Itching

Get a Root Canal Sooner Rather Than Later

When your dentist realizes that you need to have a root canal, it is recommended that you get it done sooner rather than later, as the damage could worsen and cause complications. Receiving the appropriate treatment will help you get back to chewing normally and living without mouth pain.

If you don’t have dental insurance, you might think that you have to hold off on getting a root canal, but when you sign up for a Spirit dental plan, you won’t have to worry about potentially detrimental waiting periods. This means that you can get the root canal you need when you need it, and you won’t have to break the bank in the process either.

Root canals might seem frightening at first, but once you overcome your fear and your dentist is able to treat your tooth, you’ll realize that it was all worth it because your mouth will feel a lot better when you’re all done. If you have concerns about the cost of a root canal, get a quote from Spirit Dental & Vision and see how much you can save.


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