Frequently Asked Questions
Your Office Visit
A typical visit to an endodontist begins with completing the paperwork, which includes your medical history and consent forms. It is advisable to bring a list of all the medications (including over-the-counter medicines) that you regularly take or have taken within the past month. Once all forms are complete, an assistant will review and chart your chief complaint, and take necessary x-rays of your teeth.
Your endodontist will then assess your symptoms and perform diagnostic tests in the tooth in question along with adjacent teeth. After the tests are complete, a diagnosis will be given and the doctor will discuss your treatment options. The endodontist will make you aware of the benefits, options and risks involved in order for you to understand how endodontic treatment can relieve your pain and save your tooth. Possible post-treatment decisions such as a crown on the treated tooth also may be addressed.
If you decide to receive treatment, you will typically be given an appointment for treatment at a later date. Before treatment begins, you will receive local anesthesia to numb the area. If the procedure requires more than one visit, an intra-canal medication and a temporary filling will be placed in the tooth between appointments.
Once your treatment is complete, recall X-rays may be taken periodically to track the success of the treatment. Also, review sheets listing the most common post-operative instructions and symptoms will be made available.
How does endodontic treatment save the tooth?
Root canal or endodontic treatment—treatment done to the inside of the tooth—is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes, most commonly deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, faulty or decayed crown margins, or a crack or fracture in the tooth. In addition, trauma to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
During root canal treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside walls of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterwards, the tooth needs to be restored with a crown or filling for protection. After restoration, the tooth is expected to function like any other tooth.
Endodontic treatment helps you keep your natural teeth, maintain your smile and continue to eat the foods you love.
Is a root canal painful?
Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. Today, endodontists understand a great deal about pain management. With modern anesthetics and select techniques, the vast majority of patients report that they are comfortable throughout the procedure. For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. Over-the-counter medications, such as Advil® or Tylenol®, are usually enough to manage this sensitivity. In some cases prescription for pain medications may be necessary, and are available from your endodontist.
Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. Of course, if you experience pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, call your endodontist.
With proper care, teeth that have had root canal treatment can last a lifetime. But sometimes, a tooth that has been treated doesn't heal properly and can become painful or diseased several months or years after the treatment. If your tooth failed to heal or develops new problems, you have a second chance. An additional procedure may be able to support healing and save your tooth. If you are experiencing dental pain or discomfort in a previously treated tooth, talk to an endodontist about endodontic retreatment or apical surgery.