Root Canals

root canal treatment

Root canals are endodontic procedures that remove the infected pulp from the inside of your tooth’s roots. The pulp contains nerve endings, blood vessels, and connective tissues that are normally protected by the outer dentin and enamel layers. However, if the enamel or dentin become damaged, the pulp can become infected. Once the pulp is infected, root canals are essential to relieve pain and swelling, as well as to preserve the tooth and prevent it from being lost.

Transparent tooth showing internal structures

Did You Know?

The word “Endodontic” comes from the Greek words “Endo” meaning “inside” and “odont” meaning “tooth”. Thus, endodontic treatment literally translates to treatment for the inside of the tooth.


Frequently Asked Questions:


How do I know if I need a root canal?

You will need a root canal if your tooth’s pulp has been infected. Symptoms of infected pulp include pain, sensitivity to extreme temperatures, tender to the touch, pain while chewing, tooth discoloration, and swelling, drainage, or tenderness in the adjacent lymph nodes and gums. If the infection is in the early stages, however, there may be no symptoms. The best way to know if you need a root canal is to schedule a consultation with one of our dentists at Bethesda Family Dentistry.

Steps of a root canal

What should I expect during my root canal?

Before beginning your root canal, our dentists will take x-rays and give you a local anesthetic. Then a dental dam, or protective sheet, will be placed to protect your other teeth during the procedure.

A small opening will be made on the top of your tooth, leading to the pulp. Then, the infected pulp is removed, the chamber is thoroughly cleaned, and the remaining space is shaped and prepared for the filling.

The chamber is then filled with rubber-like, biocompatible material called gutta-percha and adhesive cement. A temporary filling may also be placed at this time until the permanent restoration is prepared. Once the permanent restoration is placed, usually a cap or crown, your tooth will be completely restored to its full function.


Are root canals painful?

Root canals themselves are normally not painful. In fact, thanks to modern technology root canal procedures are no more uncomfortable than getting a filling. If your tooth was painful before the root canal, you may also experience some soreness after the procedure, however this is a result of your tooth recovering from the infection. This will dissipate shortly and, in the meantime, can be managed with over the counter pain medications.


What should I expect after my root canal?

After your root canal, you will want to take special care to not eat anything too hard or chewy while you have your temporary restoration. Temporary restorations are not as strong as permanent restorations and your tooth can fracture if you are not careful.

Once you have your permanent restoration, you can return to a normal diet, however you will always want to take care when eating extremely hard foods. You will also want to practice good oral habits such as brushing twice daily, flossing once daily, and visiting Bethesda Family Dentistry at least twice a year for a dental checkup.


Will my root canal last forever?

In most cases, teeth that have been treated with root canals have a similar lifespan to natural teeth. However there are cases where the tooth may not heal properly or become diseased again.


What if my root canal fails?

Although root canals are usually successful, they can fail if there are narrow or curvy canals that were not treated during the procedure.

In some other cases, teeth that have already undergone root canal treatment may need to undergo additional treatment. This usually occurs as a result of tooth trauma, new decay, or fillings that have become broken, cracked, or loose and have become infected.

Retreatment using a root canal is the most common treatment for failed root canals. However, there tooth can also be extracted or an apicoectomy can be performed. An apicoectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the infection from the base of the tooth.


Are root canals safe?

According the American Association of Endodontics, 25 million root canals are safely performed annually. Currently, root canals are considered to be both safe and the preferred treatment for pulp infections. The only alternative to a root canal is an extraction, which poses more risks than a root canal. In addition, extraction requires that addition restoration methods must be used to prevent your teeth from shifting.


Will root canals make me sick?

Some sources discuss the occurrence of root canals as being the cause of different illness or diseases. However, this hypothesis is based on outdated information from about a century ago and there is no current evidence to support the claim that root canals cause illness.


Two hands held out next to each other with one holding coins and the other holding a giant model tooth

How much do root canals cost?

The cost of your root canal is determined by the amount of treatment required and the location of the affected tooth. Since molars are harder to treat, they are generally more expensive than the other teeth.

Most dental insurance companies offer some type of coverage for restorative procedures, including root canals. The exact amount of coverage can vary from company to company, so be sure to find out what your own coverage level is.

Despite the expense, root canals are one of the least expensive restoration methods. The alternatives, extraction, dental implants, or bridges, are more expensive and require more involved treatment.



For a qualified, experienced, and caring approach to root canals, schedule a consultation with one of our dentists at either our Fernwood Bethesda Family Dentistry office in Bethesda or our Executive Bethesda Family Dentistry office in North Bethesda.