dentist showing xrays to patient in dental chair

Top 10 Root Canal Questions & Answers

Team Root Canal Treatment

Root canals are one of the most-dreaded dental treatments, but the truth is that with modern technology and local anesthesia, root canals are no more painful than getting a dental filling. Below, we dispel some of the myths surrounding this procedure by answering the most common root canal questions we hear from our patients.

What happens during a root canal?

During a root canal, your tooth is opened to allow us access to the pulp inside. The pulp is then removed and the chamber and canals of your tooth are cleaned and shaped. We replace the pulp with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha to seal the chamber and prevent reinfection. A temporary restoration protects the tooth until you receive your permanent restoration.

Why are root canals needed?

Root canals are needed whenever the pulp inside a tooth is inflamed or infected. This can occur because of dental trauma, a deep cavity, a fracture, or when a tooth is knocked out. When pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause significant pain and tooth abscesses.

How painful is a root canal?

The root canal itself isn’t painful, as your tooth and the area surrounding it will be thoroughly numbed before we begin any work. Once the local anesthesia begins to wear off, you will experience some tenderness, which typically lasts for a few days. Most patients are pleasantly surprised that their root canals weren’t at all what they expected or feared!

How long does a root canal take?

The amount of time needed for a root canal depends on the complexity of the canal structure. Sometimes a single 90-minute appointment is needed, while other times you may need a second appointment to complete your treatment. We can give you an estimate of what you can expect once we view x-rays of the tooth that needs treatment.

Are you awake during a root canal?

Yes, you will be awake during your root canal, but we use local anesthesia to ensure your comfort.

What happens if you wait too long to get a root canal?

If you wait too long to get a root canal, you’ll either be faced with a lengthier, more complicated procedure or your tooth may need to be extracted. It’s also likely that during this time, you’ll be coping with severe dental pain. A root canal stops your pain and saves your tooth.

Do you always need a crown after a root canal?

Crowns are often needed, but not always. If we only need to make a small opening in your tooth to access the pulp, a dental filling may be sufficient to restore it. Usually crowns are needed for molars, while fillings may be an option for other teeth.

Is a root canal worth it?

Root canals are certainly worth it—they make the difference between keeping your natural tooth and having to get it extracted and replaced. A root canal will save you time in the dentist’s chair and money on restorative dental work.

Will a tooth turn black after a root canal?

It’s possible that a tooth might darken after a root canal. Sometimes referred to as a “dead tooth,” the actual reason for this discoloration is internal bleeding that occurs after dental trauma. If this happens, your tooth can be whitened through a treatment called internal bleaching.

Is there an alternative to getting a root canal?

The alternative to getting a root canal is having your tooth extracted. Some patients are under the impression that an extraction is easier or less expensive than getting a root canal, but this isn’t the case. After an extraction, you’ll need to replace your tooth with a dental bridge or implant in order to restore your oral health.

Learn More About Root Canals

If you have a question we haven’t answered here, we’re happy to provide an answer! Contact us today at 203-775-2225 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Levitt.