Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is needed when either decay (cavity) or an injury infects the inner material of your tooth, known as the pulp. Dental pulp extends from the crown of your tooth all the way down into the root and contains soft tissue such as nerves and blood vessels, which are essential to the vitality of a tooth. In the earliest stages of a pulp infection, patients may not feel any pain at all. However, as the infection progresses your tooth becomes susceptible to severe pain, swelling or the formation of a dental abscess. A root canal procedure is necessary to remove this infection and prevent it from spreading. Without treatment, the tooth will not heal on its own and the infection can grow which will cause the tooth to degenerate and possibly fall out. It is important to see your dentist immediately if you are experiencing any pain or swelling, especially when biting down.

What occurs during a root canal procedure?

A root canal is a procedure done to save the tooth by cleaning out the diseased or damaged pulp and reshaping the canal. Occasionally, a root canal procedure involves more than one appointment, depending on the condition of the tooth. 

First, your dentist will administer an anesthetic to numb the area. Next, after drilling a small hole into the surface of the tooth, the canal is cleaned and diseased pulp is removed and the remaining pulp is reshaped. Next, the canal is filled with a rubberlike substance to prevent recontamination of the tooth. Lastly, your dentist will either fill the canals, or seal your tooth temporarily to guard against infection before your next appointment. If a temporary filling was placed, at the next appointment after inspecting the tooth for weakness or recontamination, your dentist can then permanently seal the tooth with either a post and/or a crown. A post may be necessary to reinforce the original tooth before a permanent crown is placed to ensure longevity. This procedure enables patients to keep their original tooth while the crown is placed to  strengthen its structure and restore natural appearance.


Are there other options to root canal therapy?

Pulp capping is one alternative to root canal therapy; however, a pulp cap can only occur when the infection has yet to fully penetrate the pulp of your tooth. If the pulp becomes infected and the tooth starts to degenerate, a root canal will be needed to save it from a tooth extraction. When a large cavity reaches the pulp, a pulp cap can be used to stop the tooth decay from infecting the entire pulp chamber or getting too close to the nerve. A pulp cap allows the dentin of the tooth to regenerate over the pulp cap, preventing an infection.  Your dentist may need to administer some tests to determine if the tooth is healthy enough to withstand pulp capping. In general, pulp capping is much less common than root canal therapy because there are a lot factors that determine whether or not a tooth is a good candidate for this procedure.

An additional alternative to root canal therapy is to extract the tooth, however, this can cause the surrounding teeth to move which may result in a bad bite, or additional discomfort. An extraction is often perceived to be a less expensive option however, the empty space left behind from the extracted tooth will require either an implant or a bridge, which are commonly more expensive than root canal therapy. It is always preferable for patients to keep their natural teeth.



Will I experience pain after the root canal procedure?

Because there is usually an underlying inflammatory condition/infection when you need a root canal, it is normal for there to be some discomfort afterwards. Usually this is noticed while chewing or the area may feel bruised. You should expect that your tooth will be tender to biting for several days after your treatment, and it may feel odd for several months after the procedure. This discomfort is usually managed by over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or Aleve. In some cases, we may prescribe stronger medications. Occasionally, a flare-up can occur several days after your root canal therapy. These can sometimes occur in teeth that were not causing any pain prior to the treatment, but suddenly become symptomatic two or three days later. This can sometimes be accompanied by swelling of the gum or face. If this occurs, please call our office. We will evaluate your circumstance and recommend how to best manage the condition.

Will I need antibiotics? Additional medication?

In most cases, antibiotics are not required after root canal therapy. You will be given a prescription for antibiotics if your dentist feels it is necessary. Your dentist may have placed you on an antibiotic prior to your appointment. We will let you know if you should continue this. Some medical conditions, require special doses of antibiotics an hour before treatment to reduce the risk of infection. If you have any questions about this, please call our office.

Will I be able to drive or go to work after the appointment?

In most cases, you should consider this appointment no more involved than a routine dental filling. Unless you have been prescribed a sedative or are taking narcotic pain medications, then you should be able to drive yourself to and from the appointment.

 How should I take care of my tooth after the appointment? 

If we placed a temporary filling, avoid drinking hot beverages or chewing on the tooth for several hours until it has had time to fully harden. To avoid cracking the tooth, it is best to avoid heavy chewing until you get the permanent crown placed. This takes anywhere from 1-2 weeks. Temporary restorations cannot be expected to last for more than 30 days. Failure to return to your dentist for final restoration could result in recontamination or fracture of the tooth, which could result in loss of the tooth. 

Root canal therapy has a high rate of success and most teeth undergoing this procedure can be saved to last a lifetime!


St. George

(435) 525-2510

North Ogden

(385) 288-0200


(385) 999-8336


(801) 683-2156