So you are lying on the dentist’s chair and she tells you that you need an emergency root canal and all of a sudden your hands start to sweat, you can feel your face getting warmer and it feels as if you heart is beating in your throat. What is it about a root canal that makes people so nervous?


Root canal is a treatment to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of removing it. The term root canal comes from cleaning of the canals inside a tooth’s root. Root canal alternatives include extracting the damaged tooth and replacing it with a dental implant, bridge or partial denture.

Teeth have a soft core called dental pulp. The pulp extends from the crown, the visible part of the tooth, to the tip of the tooth’s root in the jawbone. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp. Left untreated, bacteria and decaying material can cause a serious infection or a tooth abscess, leading to pulp death, bone loss and loss of the tooth itself. Signs and symptoms include: Swelling around your face and neck, a hole in your tooth, toothache, gum swelling and temperature sensitivity.

A root canal is usually done by an endodontist or a general dentist. First you have dental x-rays taken to check the extend of the damage. You also receive a local anesthetic to control pain, which may be more severe if the tooth is abscessed. Decay is removed and an opening is made through the crown of the tooth to gain access to the pulp chamber. Using small dental instruments, the infected pulp is removed.

After the infected pulp is removed, the pulp chamber and root canals are flushed and cleaned. The root canals may be reshaped and enlarged to allow better access for filling later. Before permanently filling the root canals, they should be clean of all infection and dried. The tooth may be left open to drain for several days. If infection has spread beyond the tooth, you may need a prescription for antibiotics. If the root canal requires multiple visits, a temporary filling is placed in the crown to protect the tooth and keep out debris and saliva.

After cleaning and drying, it’s time to fill the interior of the tooth, the empty pulp chamber and the root canals. If you had a temporary filling placed, that will be removed to allow access to the inside of the tooth. A sealer paste and rubber compound is used to fill the tooth, following by a dental filling to make sure the root canals are protected against saliva.

The final stage of the root canal is restoring your tooth. Because the tooth typically has a large filling or is weakened from extensive decay, it needs to be protected from future damage and returned to normal function. This is usually done by placing a crown, a realistic-looking artificial tooth. A crown is made of gold, porcelain or porcelain fused to metal. It can be tinted to match the colour of your teeth.

After your root canal, your restored tooth with the new crown should work normally and look cosmetically pleasing. If you follow good dental hygiene, your restored tooth could last a lifetime.