What is a root canal?

A root canal is the procedure by which the nerve is removed from a tooth and the canal
where the nerve resided is filled with a rubbery material called gutta percha.  The tooth and
root still remain in your mouth.

Does a root canal hurt?

NO-really.  You may feel a pinch from the injection of local anesthetic, although many times
we can give an injection that you do not feel at all.  Occasionally, if you wait too long to see
your dentist, it can be more difficult to numb your tooth.  

What is the purpose of a root canal?

The purpose of a root canal is to save your tooth from an extraction.

What are the reasons for a root canal?

There are a number of reasons for a root canal
Untreated decay touching or nearly touching the nerve of a tooth.
A tooth that has developed an infection.
Extreme tooth sensitivity to cold, hot or touch.
A tooth broken into or nearly into the nerve.
A broken tooth with inadequate remaining structure to fix the tooth with
a crown.  The nerve canal is then used to place a reinforcing post to support the crown.
A tooth that must be repositioned or straightened with a crown, where the nerve is in the     
way of the new crown.
Other less common conditions.

Can you describe the procedure?

A topical anesthetic (numbing cream) is rubbed on your gum with a Q-tip.  Then, an
injection of local anesthetic is given into the numbed area.  If you are extremely nervous
about your root canal, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) can be given, but is rarely needed.
A rubber dam is then placed over your tooth.  A rubber dam is a sheet of rubber with a hole
punched for your tooth.  This is the closest we can come to sterility in the mouth.  The
germs from your mouth can be kept out of your tooth, and the bad tasting medications can
be kept out of your mouth.
A hole is made into the nerve chamber, the nerve is removed and the canal is shaped to hold
the gutta percha root canal filling.  Gutta percha is a bio-compatible rubbery material from
evergreen trees found in Malaysia and South East Asia.  This is done in one or two visits.
A temporary filling will be placed, and you will have to return for a final restoration; usually
a post and crown as a separate procedure.
A prescription for pain medication and an antibiotic if indicated will be given to you, along
with post-op instructions about what to expect.

What can I expect after my root canal?  Will it hurt?

There is usually very little pain after a root canal.  There may be some mild discomfort for
the first 24 to 36 hours, but generally not too bad.  If needed over-the-counter pain
relievers such as Advil, Aleve, Tylenol or aspirin, are generally adequate.  Occasionally we
may give you a stronger prescription medication.  It is a good idea to take one of these
before the numbness wears off as it may lessen or eliminate any discomfort.
Infrequently there can be considerable pain when the numbness wears off.  Take your pain
medication as directed.  It will help.  If you have any swelling and were not given an
antibiotic, call us with the name and phone of your local pharmacy, and we will call in a
prescription.  If you feel the pain is unusually severe and does not let up with in a day or
two, call us.  If you have any questions at all do not hesitate to call.

Why do I need a post and crown after my root canal?

A tooth is much weaker and more brittle after a root canal. The same factors that caused a
tooth to need a root canal like fracture, decay or infection also greatly weaken a tooth.  A
post is placed into the canal that used to hold the nerve, and a strong filling, or core is
bonded to it and the remaining tooth.  The crown is cemented over the post and core
restoring the tooth to a strong healthy condition.  Sometimes in an exceptionally strong
tooth, a post or crown is not needed.
E-mail us at
East Northport Dental Care
Mark H Freedman, DDS
General, Family, Implant and Cosmetic Dentistry
1023 Pulaski Road
East Northport, NY  11731
Root Canal