a man holding his jaw due to tooth pain

What is a Root Canal?


Severely decayed or infected teeth can often be saved if a root canal is scheduled promptly. A root canal is a restorative dental procedure that involves removing decay and infection from the pulp (interior) of a tooth. Read on for everything to know about root canals, also known as root canal therapy. 

What Happens During a Root Canal?

Today, root canals generally don’t take much longer than a filling would take. They aren’t painful either. Before your dentist begins, the entire area surrounding the affected tooth will be completely numbed. Then your dentist will drill a small hole in the top of the tooth to access the pulp. 

The decay inside the tooth will be removed, and the interior chamber and canals will be disinfected to prevent any spread. The chamber is then filled with an inert material before the hole is filled. A temporary crown will be placed on the treated tooth. In a few weeks, you will return to your dentist to have a permanent crown bonded to the tooth.  

Are there Alternatives to Root Canals?

The goal of a root canal is to preserve your natural tooth. Root canals are only recommended if a filling or other restorative treatment cannot correct the problem. An infection cannot be allowed to fester in the mouth, as it has the potential to spread elsewhere, leading to gum disease such as periodontitis. Bacterial infections can also spread to the bloodstream, putting your cardiovascular health at risk. The only alternative to a root canal is tooth extraction.

A tooth extraction on a salvageable tooth is not recommended. This is because when you remove the tooth, you also remove the tooth root. The tooth root is what anchors your tooth to your jawbone. When the tooth root is removed, the jawbone no longer serves its anchoring purpose in that area. Thus it begins to deteriorate. Jawbone loss as the result of tooth extraction will be a progressive condition. 

In cases where a tooth is not salvageable, such as in cases where the tooth completely fractures beneath the gum line, an extraction will be necessary. To prevent loss of bone, after an extraction you will need a dental implant.

The biocompatible screws used in dental implants mimic the function of a tooth root. When they are implanted in the jawbone, the tissue and cells begin growing up the screw, just like they do with a tooth root. The ability of a dental implant to look and function like a natural tooth is the reason they are considered the gold standard for tooth replacement.

What to Expect After a Root Canal

After your root canal therapy, you may experience some tenderness, swelling, or inflammation. However, most people return to work or daily activities after a root canal. In most cases, any discomfort you feel can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications.

You may be more comfortable avoiding chewing or biting with the tooth that was treated, in the first few days following your procedure. You should continue to brush and floss normally to keep the area clean and healthy. Avoid biting on hard foods or ice while you have a temporary crown.  Within just a few weeks, your custom-made crown will be ready and you’ll return to have it permanently bonded to your treated tooth.

Root Canal Therapy on the Upper West Side

If you’re experiencing any dental pain, including throbbing pain when chewing, or increased sensitivity to certain foods, schedule a dental appointment as soon as possible. Many times, even seriously infected teeth can be saved with a root canal. Contact Glassman Dental Care today at 212-787-4860 or text our office at 917-451-7140. You are also welcome to request an appointment online.