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Root Canals: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly



More than 15 million root canals are performed annually in the United States. An infected tooth causes pain that is difficult to bear. This infection is a dental emergency and gets treated by root canal therapy.

When done correctly, root canals save teeth that would otherwise need to be extracted due to decay or damage from an accident. Do you have a root canal appointment coming up, or are you toying with the idea? Read about root canals and everything involved below!

What’s Root Canal?

A root canal is a procedure that removes diseased tissue from inside your tooth (the pulp) and replaces it with an inert filling material (usually gutta-percha). It usually involves two visits to the dentist, with the second visit occurring about a week after the first visit. 

At your first appointment, your dentist numbs the area around your tooth and sterilizes it before removing all the diseased tissue with small files. Afterward, he’ll fill any remaining holes with gutta-percha material before sealing everything back up with temporary fillings made of plastic, composite resin, or crown. 

Does Root Canal Cure Infected Tooth?

A root canal cures an infected tooth. If your tooth has become infected, the infection will spread to the surrounding gum tissue and even into your jawbone. If you don’t get treatment for this infection, eventually, it can spread to other parts of your body.

An infected tooth can cause pain and swelling without treatment, making eating difficult or impossible. Sometimes an infected tooth can break down its support structure, causing it to fall out of your mouth!

After the dentist removes the infected tissue, some circumstances can lead to further infection of a root canal-treated tooth. A dentist performs a root canal when there is no longer a nerve or blood supply to the tooth with an infection. You’ll have a dead tooth that can’t communicate with the rest of your body.  Because your tooth is no longer connected to your lymph and immune systems, your body cannot eliminate any remaining bacteria. With time, the tooth and surrounding bone become reinfected with bacteria draining from the tooth, and the body is powerless to stop it. A root canal can’t recover from a second infection.

If You Need a Root Canal What Do You Do?

If you need a root canal, the first thing you should do is take a 3D image. A 3D image lets the dentist see the inside of your tooth in detail, which helps them make a more informed decision on the procedure.

After the image is taken, the dentists will review it with you and discuss whether or not your tooth requires treatment. They’ll also give you options for the next steps based on what they see in the image. 

Root Canal Benefits

Root canals are an excellent option for people who want to keep their teeth. Here’s why:

  • Root canal therapy is a simple and cost-effective way to preserve the health of your teeth and avoid costly dental work in the future.
  • Root Canals are pain-free because they are performed under local anesthesia and do not require general anesthesia. Because you are awake during the procedure, you will not experience any pain. Instead, there will be discomfort afterward until the anesthesia wears off completely.
  • Root Canals are visually appealing because they allow you to keep your natural teeth in place while protecting them from further damage or infection. With this treatment option, you will have fewer missing teeth than if you had an extraction done instead!

Can You Avoid Root Canal?

Tooth decay is the common cause of root canals, but you may still need one even if you don’t have cavities or tooth decay.

A root canal is usually needed when there are problems with a tooth’s pulp—the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. It can happen when a cavity deepens and reaches the pulp.

You can avoid root canals if you take care of your teeth. 

  • Brush and floss regularly
  • See your dentist every six months for check-ups and cleanings
  • Eat foods that promote oral health (fruits and vegetables)
  • Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively

Root canals are an effective and safe way of saving teeth that would otherwise be lost to decay or injury. Of course, nobody wants to undergo the procedure, especially the first time around. But ultimately, a root canal is better than losing your tooth. And if you thought that getting a root canal was bad, wait until you hear about wisdom tooth removal.