What to Expect During a Root Canal

Root Canal Treatments

A root canal is a dental procedure to fix a tooth that cannot be filled or restored any other way. If the tooth is severely decayed into the nerve of the tooth and / or abscessed, root canal treatment is usually the only option to save the tooth. Your regular dentist might do the root canal, but he / she may send you to an endodontist.

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What's Involved in a Root Canal?

After the dentist numbs your tooth, he / she may use a rubber dam to keep the tooth area dry and free of saliva. A rubber dam is simply a piece of rubber that fits over the tooth and isolates it from the rest of the mouth. The dentist will then prepare the tooth by drilling an opening. After the dentist removes all of the decay and bacteria, he / she will use root canal files to clean out the canals (roots) of the tooth. Root canal files are small instruments that increase in diameter and fit down into the canals enabling the dentist to remove the nerve. Some dentists like to wait a week or two before they finish a root canal, to make sure that there is no discomfort or further infection. If this is the case, the dentist will thoroughly clean the tooth and usually, put some soothing medicine inside and seal it closed with a temporary filling material.

At the final stage of a root canal treatment, the dentist will usually fill the canals with a rubber filling material called gutta percha. After the canals are filled, a regular filling will be placed in the tooth.

Facts to Consider About Root Canals

After a tooth has had a root canal, it can become dry and brittle and easy to break. A crown (cap) is usually recommended to restore the tooth properly. The cost of a root canal on a molar (back tooth) generally costs between $1,000 and $1,300, but can run higher. A crown averages around $1000. Although the cost of a root canal is extensive, the only other alternative to a root canal is the removal of the tooth. If the tooth is removed, a bridge, partial or dental implant is recommended to fill in the gap because the other teeth can become crooked by shifting around.

Root Canals have a very high success rate, but there is always the chance of a new infection, which could require another root canal or removal of the tooth.


A root canal doesn’t have to be scary if you know what to expect. Express any concerns or questions you might have with your dentist and be sure to keep up with regular check up appointments because a root canal is an investment that should be protected.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Association of Endodontists. Root Canal Explained.

  2. CostHelper. How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?

  3. Elemam RF, Pretty I. Comparison of the success rate of endodontic treatment and implant treatment. ISRN Dent. 2011;2011:640509. doi:10.5402/2011/640509

By Tammy Davenport
Tammy Davenport is a dental assistant with experience on the clinical and administrative side.