Root Canal procedures have been around for generations, and although advances in dental technique and pain management have come a long way in the last twenty years, a common fear of the pain associated with this dental work still prevents many people from seeking the treatment they need. If you are a patient in need of root canal work, be assured that the procedure is not nearly as uncomfortable as it was in the past. Furthermore, a little bit of understanding regarding how the procedure works should help alleviate some of your fears.

The root canal is the space inside the root of the tooth containing pulp, or the nerve, and soft connective tissue. In the root canal procedure, technically called endodontic therapy, the canal is cleaned out of all material and re-filled with a protective substance to prevent further decay of the tooth. It is a simple but time consuming procedure; patients can expect to be in the dentist’s chair for an hour or so.

Endodontic therapy begins with the administration of Novocaine. The dentist will start with a topical application then follow with an injection. If the topical Novocaine is properly administered, and sufficient time is given for it to become effective, most patients will never feel the injection. After waiting 10-20 minutes for the area to be fully numbed, the patient should be ready to continue.

In the first step the dentist uses a standard drill to open the affected canal, either through the top or back of the tooth. With access to the canal the dentist will then remove the tissue with a series of small spoon excavators and broaches. Some dentists prefer to measure the canal in the early stages of cleaning to insure they’ll know when it’s completely empty. Files will be used to properly shape and enlarge the canal as well.

When cleaning is finished the canal will be rinsed with antiseptic, then filled with a combination of rubber plugs and a substance called gutta-percha. Gutta-percha is an organic material which becomes flexible when exposed to heat. This enables it to be pressed into the canal to fill in all the gaps around the rubber plugs. Finally, the canal is sealed off with strong, durable dental cement.

A temporary crown will be fitted to protect the tooth during the recovery period. After thirty days or so, if the tooth remains infection free, a permanent crown will be installed to cover and protect the weakened tooth.