Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Root Canal Treatment
Root canal treatment (also called a root
canal) is done when decay will likely damage or has already killed a tooth.
During a root canal, a dentist or
endodontist removes the
pulp from the center of a tooth and fills the pulp
cavity. This can prevent the development of a painful infection in the pulp
that may spread to other teeth. A root canal can also treat an infection that
has developed into an
abscessed tooth. This procedure can relieve toothache,
stop infection, and promote healing.
dentist or one who specializes in diseases of tooth
pulp (endodontist) can perform a root canal.
After a root canal, your lips and gums
may remain numb for a few hours until the anesthetic wears off. Later you may
have throbbing pain, which you can treat with pain medicines, such as
ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a stronger prescription painkiller. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. The pain
usually lasts only a day or two.
Crowns that seal the top of the
tooth and strengthen it may come loose over time. They may need to be repaired,
redone, or cemented on again.
A root canal is needed when tooth
decay is likely to cause permanent damage to the pulp or has already done
A root canal removes the pulp
inside the tooth and replaces it with filling material. It can effectively
treat or prevent an infection.
If you have an infected tooth, bacteria from
the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the
body. People who have a hard time fighting off infections may need to take
antibiotics before and after a root canal. Such people
include those who have artificial heart valves or were born with
Because a root canal removes the
pulp inside the tooth, the tooth becomes more fragile and may break more easily
if it is not covered with a crown or cap.
A root canal needs to be
done as soon as possible to avoid a severe infection, which can damage the bone
surrounding the root of the tooth and infect other teeth.
have a severely decayed or infected tooth, you may not want to go through the
expense and discomfort of a root canal and crown fitting. Instead, you may
choose to have the tooth removed (extracted). The space can be left open or
restored with a fixed or removable
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerSteven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
Current as ofNovember 20, 2015
Current as of:
November 20, 2015
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.