The Root Canal Procedure: Step-by-Step Guide

Posted by James Hart May 23, 2024

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A root canal is a dental procedure to treat infection or damage within a tooth's pulp, consisting of nerves and blood vessels. During the procedure, an endodontist or dentist removes the diseased or damaged pulp, cleans and disinfects the tooth's interior, and then fills and seals it to prevent further infection. This process helps alleviate pain, save the natural tooth, and prevent the need for extraction. Often, a crown is placed on the treated tooth to restore its strength and functionality. Root canals are typically performed under local anesthesia and can be completed in one or more visits. 

Indications for Root Canal Treatment 

  • Severe tooth pain, especially when chewing or applying pressure 
  • Prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold 
  • Discoloration or darkening of the tooth 
  • Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums 
  • Persistent or recurring pimples on the gums 

Myths and Misconceptions About Root Canal Treatment 

Myth 1: Root Canals Are Painful 

One of the most pervasive myths about root canals is that they are extremely painful. However, advancements in dental techniques and anesthesia mean the procedure is no more uncomfortable than a routine filling. The treatment relieves the severe pain caused by the infection. 

Myth 2: Extraction is Better Than a Root Canal 

Some believe extracting a damaged tooth is better than undergoing a root canal. However, preserving your natural tooth is preferable whenever possible. Extractions can lead to complications such as shifting teeth, bone loss, and the need for costly replacements like implants or bridges. 

Myth 3: Root Canals Cause Illness 

This outdated belief stems from debunked theories that root canals can cause systemic illnesses. Modern research has shown no link between root canal treatment and systemic diseases. Root canal treatment can improve overall health by eliminating oral infections. 

Myth 4: Root Canals Are Only for Severe Decay 

While root canals are often associated with severe tooth decay, they are also used to treat teeth that have been cracked, chipped, or damaged by trauma. Any condition that compromises the pulp can necessitate a root canal. 

The Root Canal Procedure 

Initial Evaluation 

The first step in root canal treatment is a thorough evaluation by your dentist or endodontist. They will examine the tooth, review your symptoms, and take dental X-rays to assess the extent of the infection or damage. 


Once the tooth is numb, your dentist will place a rubber dam around it to isolate it and keep it dry during the procedure. This also prevents bacteria from entering the tooth during treatment. 

Access Opening 

Your dentist will open the tooth's crown to access the pulp chamber and root canals. This allows them to remove the infected or inflamed pulp and thoroughly clean the inside of the tooth. 

Pulp Removal 

Your dentist will carefully remove the infected or inflamed pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals using specialized instruments. They will also clean and shape the inside of the tooth to prepare it for filling. 


After removing the pulp, the root canals are cleaned and disinfected to remove any remaining bacteria and prevent reinfection. Your dentist may use antimicrobial solutions to thoroughly disinfect the inside of the tooth. 

Filling and Sealing 

Once the root canals have been cleaned and disinfected, they are filled with biocompatible gutta-percha to seal them and prevent bacteria from re-entering the tooth. The access opening in the crown of the tooth is then sealed with a temporary or permanent filling. 


After the root canal treatment is complete, your dentist will recommend protecting the tooth with a permanent restoration, such as a dental crown, to restore its function and appearance. 


Following root canal treatment, you may experience some mild discomfort or sensitivity, which can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain medications. Your dentist will schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your progress and ensure the tooth is healing properly. Contact us today! 

The Benefits of Root Canal Therapy 

  • Root canal therapy eliminates the source of pain and discomfort by removing the infected pulp, providing much-needed relief to patients. 
  • Rather than extracting the damaged tooth, root canal therapy preserves the natural tooth structure, maintains bite function, and prevents the need for costly tooth replacements. 
  • Root canal treatments help prevent the spread of infection to surrounding teeth and tissues, safeguarding overall oral health and reducing the risk of systemic complications. 
  • When performed by a skilled dentist or endodontist and followed by proper oral care, root canal-treated teeth can last a lifetime, offering patients a durable and reliable solution for restoring oral health and function. 

Alternatives to Root Canal Treatment 

While root canal treatment is often the best option for saving a severely damaged or infected tooth, alternative treatments may be considered in some instances. These alternatives include: 

Tooth Extraction 

In some cases, extracting the affected tooth may be necessary if the damage is too extensive or if the tooth cannot be saved. After extraction, options for replacing the missing tooth, such as dental implants, bridges, or dentures, can be explored. 

Pulp Capping 

Pulp capping is a less invasive procedure that may be considered for teeth with minor pulp exposure or damage. This involves placing a protective dressing over the exposed pulp to encourage healing and prevent further damage. 

Endodontic Retreatment 

Endodontic retreatment may be necessary if a previously treated tooth develops new or persistent infection. This involves reopening the tooth, removing the old root canal filling, cleaning and disinfecting the canals, and placing a new filling. 

Root canal treatment is a crucial dental procedure that saves teeth and contributes significantly to overall health. Visit Gulf Coast Dental at 1751 W 9 Mile Rd. Pensacola, FL 32534, or call (850) 495-6899 to schedule your appointment and take the first step towards preserving your smile and oral health.

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