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
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