Everything You Wanted to Know About Root Canals (But Were too Afraid to Ask)

There is any number of things that can cause a person to feel fear and anxiety when they consider a trip to the dentist. The words “root canal treatment” are often one of the biggest triggers for these fears.

Beyond the exaggerated images of sharp tools, drills, and discomfort that float to the surface, the very thought of a root canal can cause some of the most profound reactions in people

Some people won’t even consider visiting the dentist because of their fears of cavities and cleanings, let alone root canals!

As a result, damage becomes decay, decay worsens, and patients skip getting fillings because they’re not willing to accept they need treatment.

When a patient finally does muster up the courage to stop by the clinic, they hear those words they dread the most: “You need a root canal.”

Of course, the lesson here is that, if patients had simply taken precautionary steps beforehand, they could’ve avoided a root canal in the first place.

But dealing with the fear of this common treatment is another thing entirely, and starts with understanding what a root canal is, why this treatment is performed, and how to avoid getting one in the first place.

So here it is: everything you wanted to know about root canal treatment (but were too afraid to ask).

What is a Root Canal?

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: “root canal” is the everyday term for what’s more accurately known as a root canal treatment or therapy.

More specifically, this treatment is technically an endodontic therapy or treatment.

This treatment addresses decaying, damaged, or infected tooth pulp, which resides inside the tooth’s root canal—hence the name.

The tooth pulp, or endodontium (which includes nerve tissue, blood vessels, and other cells), is there to help form dentin, the calcified tissues that help make up our teeth.

In layman’s terms, tooth pulp keeps your teeth alive and healthy.

When a tooth is damaged, then, it’s possible for that damage to affect the pulp in the root canal. Root canal treatment works to remove affected pulp and save the tooth.

Relieving Pain, Not Causing It

It’s important to note that root canal treatments are all about relieving pain and ensuring your mouth stays healthy.

In fact, a root canal treatment is no more painful than a filling.

Most people tend to conflate the pain caused by the damaged pulp with pain caused by the procedure itself—which won’t be an issue, as your dentist will freeze the affected area.

This misconception is part of the reason why so many people wind up afraid of this much-needed and helpful treatment!

Do I Need a Root Canal?

Ignoring tooth pain can be a very bad idea.

If you have a deep cavity, a cracked or damaged tooth, or a loose crown, a root canal might be in your future.

If you’re at all concerned about your teeth, please don’t hesitate to contact Highbury Park Dental Clinic. Our emergency services are designed to help you get the treatment you need when you need it!

What Issues Require Root Canals?

Unfortunately, there are many root canal symptoms that might lead to a procedure.

One of the most common issues is a small cavity that is left untreated.

Because small issues can become much more serious concerns, dentists everywhere recommend visiting for a checkup at least annually, if not every six months.

Here are some of the most common causes of damaged tooth pulp:

Advanced Decay

Even if you constantly brush your teeth and floss correctly, your teeth can still be subject to decay.

The truth of the matter is that some of us have stronger teeth than others. Whether it’s your genes, eating and drinking habits, or poor dental hygiene, a decaying tooth is very possible.

If you start to feel pain in your tooth, it could mean that bacteria have found their way past your enamel and into the inner parts of your tooth.


Infections can also lead to a root canal.

While this can be caused by a decayed tooth, it can also be caused by a loose crown, cracked tooth, or trauma to a tooth.

If there is any kind of opening to the root of the tooth, bacteria can get trapped and cause an infection.

In fact, it might even cause an infection in the bone. This will start to weaken the bone and surrounding ligaments, which will then cause the tooth to become loose.

Extreme Tooth Sensitivity

Extreme tooth sensitivity is likely linked to greater issues in the tooth in question.

Nerve material in tooth pulp is responsible for those strong reactions you feel when your teeth encounter extreme hot or cold temperatures.

When your teeth are compromised by bacteria, decay, or damage, you’re effectively opening a direct line to this nerve material.

As such, extreme reactions to usually normal temperatures on your teeth are cause for concern. You may also notice sensitivity while you chew, which can also cause pain.

The Root Canal Procedure, Explained

The three major steps of a root canal procedure include the cleaning of the root canal, filling the canal, and adding a crown or filling over the tooth.

Let’s take a closer look:

  • Cleaning: Once your dentist has numbed the treatment area, they’ll drill a small hole in the affected tooth to remove damaged pulp from the root canal. In some cases, they may need to remove significant material from the tooth itself. They’ll shape the canal as they clean it, irrigating it to clean it deeply at the same time.
  • Filling: A rubber-like material is then filled into the canals and an adhesive cement is used as a sealant.
  • Crown or Filling Placement: Depending on the amount of decayed material removed, your dentist may place either a filling or a crown. These are designed to protect the tooth from further damage and to keep decay out of the interior. Crowns are used to The removal of the damaged pulp means that a tooth is, effectively, dead. After a root canal, the tooth is dead. Therefore, you won’t feel any pain because the nerve tissue has been removed. However, it’s important to protect the tooth from breaking down and becoming more brittle than it already is. The final step involves placing a crown over the tooth to restore tooth function.

Recovery and Prevention

There aren’t any major root canal side effects after the procedure. Your dentist may recommend not to chew on the tooth for a few days and to avoid hard food for a little while following your root canal.

To prevent the issues that demand a root canal in the first place, though, dentists recommend brushing your teeth before bed and once more throughout the day using a toothpaste with fluoride. And don’t forget to floss!

You should also visit your dentist for regular cleanings and to check up on your oral health and hygiene. Catching the issues that cause damage in the first place before they become serious is the best step you can take.

Visit Your Dentist Today!

Thanks to advances in treatment options and technology, it’s easier than ever to address root canal issues—but still, your best bet is to avoid this treatment in the first place!

Make sure to visit your dentist for regular cleanings to help prevent the need for a root canal!