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Root Canal Surgery

Surgery Overview

A root canal is done when decay will likely damage or has already killed a tooth. During a root canal, a dentist or endodontist removes the pulp from the center of a tooth and fills the pulp cavity. This can prevent a painful infection in the pulp that may spread to other teeth. A root canal can also treat an infection that has developed into an abscessed tooth. This procedure can relieve toothache, stop infection, and promote healing.

What To Expect

After a root canal, your lips and gums may be numb for a few hours until the anesthetic wears off. Later you may have some pain. You can treat it with pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a stronger prescription painkiller. The pain usually lasts only a day or two.

If your dentist prescribes antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You'll need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Avoid chewing with the tooth until the crown or filling is in place and the tooth feels better.

Why It Is Done

A root canal is needed when tooth decay is likely to cause permanent damage to the pulp or has already done so.

How Well It Works

A root canal removes the pulp inside the tooth and replaces it with filling material. It can work well to treat or prevent an infection.

Risks

When someone has an infected tooth, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. Because of this, some people may be at more risk when having dental procedures such as a root canal. People at risk include those who have artificial heart valves or were born with heart defects. These people may need to take antibiotics before and after a root canal.

Credits

Current as of: June 30, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Arden Christen DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry

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