Root Canals: What Are They and How Do I Know if I Need One?


For many, simply hearing the words “root canal” can bring a shudder down their spine. And, unfortunately, many people who have had one will likely talk about the pain associated with it. But, it’s extremely likely that the pain they are speaking of is the pain they experienced before they had the procedure. This pain can be the result of swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head.

Fortunately, the procedure itself is relatively pain-free, much like a tooth filling. With the modern anesthetics and technology we use, we can make a root canal quite tolerable, even painless! Here at Rasmussen, we offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) which will help you relax during your experience. So, what exactly is a root canal?

What is a Root Canal?

“Root canal” is the term used to describe the natural cavity within the center of the tooth. The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the root canal.

The tooth’s nerve lies within the root canal. A tooth’s nerve is not vitally important to a tooth’s health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its only function is sensory—to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.

During a root canal procedure, the nerve, pulp, decayed tissue, and bacteria is removed. The inside of the tooth is cleaned of all bacteria and infection, and then the tooth is sealed. If the original damage is acute, the patient will be prescribed an antibiotic to be taken for 2 to 3 days before the procedure is performed. If the enamel of the tooth is extremely fragile, a full crown may be necessary by using the CEREC procedure to create a new enamel tooth in a matter of minutes.

When You Might Need a Root Canal

A root canal is a very common procedure, particularly in middle aged and older adults. There are many causes that can lead to the necessity of a root canal. Some of these include:

  • Large, older, cavity fillings that lead to cracks in the teeth

  • Cracked teeth due to trauma

  • Teeth grinding

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Inadequate dental care

Root canal treatments have a 95% success rate and can last a lifetime. Also, because the final step of the root canal procedure is application of a restoration such as a crown or a filling, others will not be able to tell you had a root canal.

Thinking you might be a good candidate for a root canal? Schedule an appointment online or call us at (763) 553-1125 today!