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What is a root canal, and when is it necessary to do it?

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It is possible that in a routine check-up with your dentist, you will be informed that you need a root canal.

A priori, you may not know exactly what this procedure consists of, or you may feel a certain hesitation at the idea of ​​undergoing it.

It is a procedure encompassed within Conservative Dentistry and is popularly known as a procedure designed to “kill the nerve.”

It is precisely this way of referring to the procedure that causes fright or rejection.

However, it is a treatment that does not cause any discomfort, is performed in a minimally invasive way and has numerous benefits for your oral health.

In order for you to go to your dentist with total confidence, it is best to know how the root canal is performed and when it is necessary. 

When do you need a root canal?

Endodontics, or root canal treatment, aims to preserve a tooth in the mouth that, if not treated, would have to be extracted.

For this reason, it is the last resort to save a diseased tooth and prevent the patient from having to have a prosthesis or implant placed to replace it.

It is carried out when the dental structure has irreversible damage, and the pulp is seriously affected.

Also called a nerve, the pulp is the soft tissue that houses nerves and blood vessels.

It is covered by dentin and enamel and is responsible for receiving external stimuli.

When the pulp is damaged, we say that the tooth is devitalized, and in most cases, the piece ends up in necrosis and presents a dark color.

Endodontics: how is it done?

How can you tell if a tooth has internal damage?

The deterioration of the dental nerve can manifest itself in different ways.

Among the most prominent symptoms, we can distinguish the following:

  • Discomfort when chewing, both in terms of pain and dental sensitivity.
  • The darkening of the tone of a specific tooth.
  • The perception of bad taste in the mouth caused by the infectious process.
  • The appearance of a fistula or phlegmon.

This damage can be caused by two main reasons :

  • Due to a cavity that has not been treated in time and the infection reaches the dental pulp. 
  • When the tooth has received a strong blow and, whether it breaks or not , the tooth is devitalized.

It is important to clarify that, even if a trauma does not fracture the tooth, we must go to the dentist to assess whether there is internal damage.

If an impact occurs, it is likely that the nerve will suffer and our tooth will be calcified.

This state also supposes the devitalization of the piece, but without becoming necrotic.

What does an endodontics consist of?

The objective of root canal treatment is the elimination of the neurovascular bundle , that is, the pulp tissue or nerve.

Afterward, the tooth canals are cleaned and sealed to avoid the condition of a new infectious process in the future.

Finally, the affected piece is reconstructed through the method that the dentist considers appropriate for each case.

It is possible to place a crown or cap , but if there is no significant loss of structure, it is possible to choose between a reconstruction or an inlay.

Do not entertain doubts

Knowing why you need a root canal and what its advantages are will help you feel more calm about the procedure.

How many canals do teeth have?

In the mouth we have different dental pieces , each with its name , characteristics and functions. 

Depending on each type, the tooth has one or more canals:

  • The incisors and canines have a single canal.
  • If we talk about the premolars, we find two.
  • The molars or teeth are the pieces with the most ducts: a total of three.

When is a root canal inadvisable?

Although endodontics allows saving a diseased tooth to avoid its extraction, sometimes it cannot be carried out:

  • When the dental piece presents a vertical fracture.
  • When the root has a minimum length that makes it impossible to attach the crown to it.
  • In periodontal patients who have suffered severe damage to the gum as support tissue.

On these occasions, the extraction of the tooth and the subsequent placement of a dental implant are inevitable to restore the functionality and aesthetics of the denture.

Does root canal hurt?

Endodontics is a treatment that is carried out under the effects of local dental anesthesia in one or two sessions, depending on the complexity of the case.

That is why the process is completely painless and the patient does not feel any discomfort.

For its part, the postoperative period is very simple and only involves a slight inflammation of the dental tissues.

To avoid any inconvenience, the dentist prescribes the intake of analgesics for 2 or 4 days so that the patient can lead a normal life. 

Endodontics is performed under local anesthesia, so you will not notice any discomfort during the procedure

Benefits of endodontics

As long as the stability of the treatment is assured, the specialist will rule out the extraction of the tooth and will opt for a root canal.

This decision is fundamentally motivated by three reasons:

  • Endodontics is a less invasive treatment than extractions.
  • An implant cannot compete in functionality or aesthetics with the natural tooth.
  • With endodontics we avoid the problems derived from losing a tooth and not replacing it at the time: occlusion problems, bone loss…

The success rate of endodontics

Endodontics is a conservative treatment that allows you to restore aesthetics and functionality to your smile.

However, the success of the treatment is not guaranteed in all cases.

Their conclusions state that the success rate of endodontic procedures amounts to 95% of cases.

However, we can distinguish a series of factors that can affect the failure of this treatment:

  •  A long-term infectious process in the dental piece that has been treated reduces the percentage of guaranteed results.
  • tooth with a complex morphology that makes it difficult to access the root canals and complicates the removal of infected pulp tissue.
  • Restorations that, over time, have become worn or detached, giving rise to new infectious processes .
  • failure in the sealing of the ducts.

To ensure that the treatment is successful, in our clinic we perform endodontics with the most advanced technology.

Thus, we have a surgical microscope that increases human vision by 250 times. 

So that you know how she makes the treatment much more precise and effective, Dr. Noelia Santos explains it to you in the following video:

surgical microscope

Care to follow after a root canal

As we said, you may notice some inflammation in the days after the intervention.

Although they are relieved with the intake of drugs recommended by your dentist, we want to give you some advice that positively influences the success of endodontics.

  • Remember that the effects of anesthesia do not disappear immediately.

Therefore, in the hours following the procedure, be careful not to bite your tongue, the inside of your cheeks, or your lips.

  • Before placing the final restoration -either a crown or an inlay-, the dentist will place a temporary filling.

During the first few, pay special attention not to chew on that side of the mouth and avoid foods that are difficult to chew or sticky.

  • As for oral hygiene routines, you can brush your teeth normally, but pay special attention to the root canal area.
  • Follow the recommendations of your specialist and take the analgesics for the time indicated.


In case you notice a throbbing pain for several days or locate a point of infection, it is best to consult the dentist who treated you.

Thus, you can assess the state of your mouth.

We hope we have resolved your doubts and, above all, that you do not feel shy about this treatment that brings so many benefits to your teeth.

If you need a review or want more information, we encourage you to contact our Conservative Dentistry team.

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