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8 Things You Should Know About Root Canals

8 Things You Should Know About Root Canals

Are you concerned that you may have a root canal system infection? Or has your dentist or endodontist told you that you need a root canal? With the many misconceptions around root canal therapy, you might hear “root canal” and start to experience panic or anxiety.

To help ease any worries, we’ve compiled a list of some important information you should know about root canals to help you better understand what a root canal system infection is and how you can best address the issue.

Read on to have your questions about root canals answered—and learn some things you might not know about root canals!

1. What is a Root Canal?

A “root canal” is the term used to describe the cavity within the center of the tooth*, but it’s also commonly used to describe the treatment of an infected root canal system. Your tooth’s nerves and pulp live within the root canal and if they become infected, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dental provider immediately to avoid further issues, like an abscess.*

what is a root canal

During a root canal, the nerve and pulp are removed, and the inside of the tooth is then cleaned and sealed.* It’s important to note that a root canal does not kill the tooth. While root canals do remove the nerves inside the tooth, these nerves serve little function in a fully formed tooth. Once your root canal is complete, your tooth will continue to function normally.**

2. What’s the History of Root Canals?

The history of endodontics started in the 17th century when the first techniques of dental transplants were documented.*** In fact, the first root canal instrument was constructed from a watch spring in 1838*** and was used to access the pulp within the root of the tooth.

Advancements in root canals continued, which led to the introduction of the filling material, gutta-percha, in 1847.*** Gutta-percha is often used after the tooth is cleaned and disinfected to help fill and seal it, and it continues to be used today for this purpose during most root canals.

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of many researchers and specialists, root canals have come a long way—and patients can be confident that they are a reliable and safe endodontic therapy.***

3. What Are the Primary Symptoms of a Root Canal?

There are various root canal symptoms to be aware of, and understanding what to look for is key in ensuring you receive timely treatment.

Common root canal symptoms include:

root canal symptoms
  • Severe pain while chewing or biting;
  • Pimples on the gums;
  • A chipped or cracked tooth;
  • Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold, even after the sensation has been removed;
  • Swollen or tender gums, and;
  • Deep decay or darkening of the gums

If you find that you are experiencing one or more of these root canal symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist or endodontist immediately.

4. Should I Choose a Dentist or Endodontist?

Your dentist is typically the one who will diagnose your tooth pain and recommend a root canal. Following the diagnosis of an infected root canal system, your dentist may perform the root canal or refer you to an endodontist.

An endodontist is a dentist who has additional schooling and specialization in the causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the dental pulp or nerve of the tooth.* These individuals are considered to be root canal specialists who can handle all root canals—but especially more complex cases.

Be sure to discuss with your dentist who is the best candidate for handling your root canal and if they prefer you work with an endodontist, request a referral to one they would recommend.

5. What Are My Root Canal Options?

The most well-known root canal option is standard root canal treatment. During standard root canal treatment, files and treatment fluids are used to remove the infected pulp tissue, and the interior of the tooth is cleaned, filled and sealed.

Patients suffering from a root canal system infection may also choose to remove the infected tooth and replace it with a dental implant. This process includes the insertion of a metal post in the jaw with an affixed porcelain crowns—and typically these procedures cost more than an endodontic treatment.

Root canal treatment options

During the GentleWave® Procedure, though, fluid dynamics and broad-spectrum acoustic energy are used to clean and disinfect the root canal system. 2 This alternative root canal option is so effective at cleaning the root canal system,1,2 there’s less chance of failure over time,4 helping patients save their natural tooth.4

6. What Are the Advantages of Saving My Natural Tooth?

Saving your natural tooth offers a number of advantages, including:

  • Efficient chewing;
  • Normal biting force and sensation;
  • Natural appearance, and;
  • Protecting other teeth from excessive wear or strain

Make sure to discuss with your dentist or endodontist which treatment option will help you save your natural tooth so you can experience the long-term benefits of preserving your smile.

7. Will I Feel Pain During My Root Canal?

Many endodontic procedures are performed to actually relieve the pain of toothaches caused by inflammation or infection. With modern techniques, root canals are relatively painless. In fact, a lot of patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure, and it can typically be completed in just one to two appointments.††

While you may experience some sensitivity or discomfort the first few days after a root canal, this can typically be relieved with over-the-counter medications. You’ll be back to biting, chewing—and smiling—with ease in no time.

8. What Should I Expect from My Root Canal Recovery?

Proper care of your treated tooth is a must for a successful root canal recovery. You should avoid eating for a few hours until the numbness in your mouth wears off to help avoid biting your cheek or tongue. After that, it’s important to stick to soft foods that require little chewing to help minimize the risk of hurting your teeth.

You also should work with your dentist or endodontist to determine what additional follow-up visits you’ll need to ensure the infection is fully gone and your tooth is healing well. Plus, always ensure that you get routine dental cleanings and exams twice a year to keep your overall oral health strong.

In all, with proper care and attention, your treated tooth can stay healthy forever.††

Looking for more insight on how to care for your treated tooth? Take a look at our helpful guide!

Choosing the GentleWave® Procedure

If you’ve been diagnosed with a root canal system infection and are seeking a root canal alternative that can help save your natural tooth4, the GentleWave Procedure is what you’ve been looking for.

To find a nearby GentleWave Doctor, use our Doctor Locator today!



***Castellucci, A. A Brief History of Endodontics. Endodontics, Volume 1, Pg. 2



The GentleWave® Procedure is a medical procedure that is designed to prepare, clean and preserve the structure of teeth1,2,4 indicated for root canal therapy. Similar to other root canal treatment procedures, there is a potential risk of adverse effects. If you are considering the GentleWave Procedure, ask your clinician if you are a proper candidate. For additional information, visit

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