The Answers to All of Your Root Canal Questions

As a patient, the idea of getting a root canal might strike fear in your mind. Whether you’ve had one before or not, it’s normal to feel some anxiety over a root canal. One thing that can help diminish that anxiety is knowledge – and we’re sure you have plenty of questions.

Curious to know what actually happens during root canal treatment? Want to know what symptoms you should look for to know if you need treatment or not? Read below for the answers to all of your root canal-related questions.

What is a Root Canal?

Also called ‘endodontic therapy,’ a root canal is a procedure that is performed when there is damage to a tooth’s pulp. The pulp is a set of nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels within the tooth – these parts are protected by the tooth’s outer layer of dentin and enamel. When a tooth has a deep cavity or a crack, bacteria can reach the pulp inside the tooth and can cause damage to it. This can manifest itself as dull, spontaneous, throbbing or radiating pain.

That’s where a root canal treatment comes in. The patient is given local anesthesia to numb the tooth and make it a comfortable experience. Then the damaged pulp is removed from the tooth, the inside of the tooth is disinfected, shaped and filled in.

Clearing Up Confusion: Does ‘Root Canal’ Mean More Than One Thing?

You may hear the term ‘root canal’ used in two ways. Above, we used it to describe the procedure taken to fix damaged tooth pulp. However, ‘root canal’ can also be used to describe the physical part of the tooth that is treated. That’s why the space within the root of the tooth containing the pulp chamber is called a ‘root canal.’

Do I Need Root Canal Treatment?

A root canal must be performed when a tooth has its pulp damaged. Since this occurs within the tooth, it’s not always easy to tell when this has happened.

Fortunately, there are other ways to tell if you need a root canal. We’ve listed the most common signs below.

Pain When Biting or Chewing

We all experience tooth aches from time to time – but if your teeth feel particularly painful when you bite or chew, or when something cold or hot touches your teeth, you may need a root canal.

Cracked or Broken Tooth

One of the most common signs of a tooth with damaged pulp is chipping or cracking. When a tooth breaks, its interior becomes exposed to a potential bacterial infection. The pulp is vulnerable and sensitive, which is why you should seek treatment as soon as possible if a tooth breaks.

Swollen Gums

If your pulp is damaged, your gums might start to swell up. This is caused by dead pulp tissues that linger around in your pulp chambers. You may also notice small pus-filled bumps on your gums – these indicate that you should seek root canal treatment.

Tooth Discolouration

Have you noticed any unexplained discolouration of a tooth? When a tooth gets traumatized by an impact, even if the tooth does not fracture and looks intact, the pulp can start to degenerate and discolour with time. Teeth can turn grey or black if the pulp is damaged. If you notice that, you may need a root canal.

How Can I Prevent a Root Canal?

The best way to prevent a root canal is to keep up with regular oral hygiene habits. Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes per session, and flossing at least once a day, are both important steps to take. These will protect the outer layer of your teeth, which will in turn protect the pulp.

What Happens During a Root Canal?

The process usually begins with your dentist giving you a local anesthetic – this numbs up your tooth so the procedure can be performed comfortably and painlessly.

Then, the dentist removes the infected pulp from your mouth. They do this by making a small opening in the tooth, accessing the pulp and removing it. Then they will shape the canals inside the tooth to allow complete effectiveness of the disinfection process. The canals that once contained the pulp are then thoroughly disinfected to clear any remaining infection.

Next, the dentist will fill the canals with a rubbery material that seals the whole inside of the tooth and then restore the tooth to its natural shape with a filling material.

What To Expect After Your Root Canal

When your root canal treatment ends, you may feel sore as you regain your sense of feeling after your anesthesia wears off. We recommend avoiding chewing or biting too hard following your root canal – after a day, things should go back to normal.

Following your root canal, it is crucial to keep up with good oral hygiene habits. Brush at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time. Floss every day as well. By doing this, you’ll keep your teeth healthy and prevent future issues.


The idea of getting a root canal may be scary. By learning more about the process, you’ll feel more comfortable if you end up needing this treatment. Remember – dentists want you to have the best experience possible!