A Comprehensive Guide to Root Canals

Root canals are one of the most common dental procedures performed. However, many people don’t understand what a root canal is. For many with dental anxiety, understanding the procedure and how it’s performed, can help to lessen nerves or stress.

If you are experiencing severe tooth pain or sensitivity, your dentist may recommend a root canal to solve the problem. In this blog, we’ll explain everything you need to know about root canals, from why they’re needed to the step-by-step process involved, alternative treatments, and the typical costs associated with the procedure.

When a Root Canal Is Required

A root canal is necessary when the pulp inside a tooth becomes inflamed or infected. This can occur for a few reasons, such as deep tooth decay, repeated dental procedures on the same tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth. This infection usually causes severe pain, and if left untreated, can cause an abscess or even bone loss. Sometimes the nerves in the pulp of the tooth will die, resulting in what is commonly known as a dead tooth. Necrotic dental nerve tissue can cause serious or even life-threatening complications if left untreated.

A root canal removes the infected or inflamed pulp, which allows the dentist to then clean the inside of the tooth and seal it up to prevent further infection. This will alleviate your pain and save the tooth, which is always a better route to go over extraction. The reason an infected tooth can cause serious complications is because the infection of the tooth can spread to the jawbone and then spread throughout your body.

While a root canal aims to remove all infection within the pulp of the tooth, it is rarely 100% successful in getting rid of all bacteria. That’s why dentists then close the pulp cavity tightly with a special compound. Therefore, any bacteria left behind is closed off and cannot multiply.

Cleanliness is very important during a root canal procedure, as any foreign bacteria that enters the mouth during the procedure can cause further infection and complications.

Alternative Treatments to Root Canals

A root canal is the most common solution to infected tooth pulp, however, there are alternative treatments available depending on the severity of the infection.

Pulp Capping

In some cases, the pulp is only slightly exposed, but not infected. Pulp capping procedures can be used to place a protective dressing over the pulp to allow it to heal.


If the tooth is very badly damaged and cannot be saved, extraction is sometimes the only option. After extraction, you’ll need to replace the lost tooth with a dental implant, bridge, or denture.


Where there is only a minor infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to manage the infection and reduce pain. However, this is usually only a temporary solution as the tooth decay will still need to be addressed with a separate treatment.


This is a treatment used when a root canal alone is not sufficient. It is a surgical procedure that removes the tip of the tooth root and the surrounding infected tissue. Apicoectomy procedures are done when the infection is severe and has spread to surrounding tissue.

Choosing the right treatment for your condition will have to be done by a dentist after examining your mouth and understanding the full extent of the infection. It’s essential to book an appointment with a dentist as soon as you start feeling pain or extreme sensitivity to prevent it from becoming a serious issue.

Step-By-Step Root Canal Procedure

A root canal usually requires one to two dentist appointments. During the procedure, you can expect:

Diagnosis and X-Ray

Your dentist will need to perform a thorough examination of your mouth, as well as take x-rays, to determine the extent of infection and assess the condition of surrounding bone before they can determine which procedure is right for you.


Local anesthesia will be administered to numb the affected tooth and surrounding area before any procedure is done to ensure a pain-free experience. This will help keep you comfortable throughout the procedure.

Dental Dam Placement

A dental dam, which is essentially a small sheet of rubber, is placed around the tooth to keep the area dry and free of saliva. This will help keep you comfortable throughout the procedure.

Cleanliness and a sterile working environment are extremely important during a root canal treatment. The tooth must be isolated to prevent any saliva or blood from reaching the interior of the tooth. Saliva contains many different types of bacteria and can endanger the success of the root canal.

Additionally, any tools or instruments used must be sterile. The dentist should open the instrument box just before the procedure to ensure everything remains sterile.

Access Opening

The dentist will then create an opening in the crown of your tooth to access the pulp chamber and root canals. This is done using a small drill. The sound is usually scarier than the actual action.

Removing the Pulp

Once access has been created within the tooth, it will be cleaned and disinfected. The dentist will shape the root canals to prepare them for filing. This step helps ensure that all infected tissue is removed, and the canals are properly shaped for the filling material. Special solutions will be used during the procedure for rinsing to remove tooth chips, debris, and bacteria.

Once the pulp has been cleaned, the canals need to be reconditioned. Most teeth have several different canals, therefore the dentist must work with magnification to navigate them. The canals need to be reconditioned to the root end, which is determined from the X-rays.

Temporary Filling

A temporary filling will then be placed on the opening of the tooth to protect it until a permanent restoration can be completed. This temporary filling is usually replaced with a permanent crown or filling at a separate appointment.

If there is any odor, pain, or severe bleeding from the tooth, the final filing should not be done.

Final Restoration

At your second appointment, the tooth will be restored with a permanent filling or crown to protect it and restore function. If the tooth structure is weakened or in an area that experiences high biting pressure, then a crown will likely be necessary.

Typical Costs Associated with Root Canals

The cost of a root canal will vary significantly based on the complexity of your case and the location of the tooth.

Here is a breakdown of the costs involved in a straightforward scenario versus a more complicated situation.

Straightforward Root Canal

In an easy and straightforward situation, the root canal is performed on a front tooth (incisor or canine), which typically has a single root canal. The cost of this procedure can range from $300 to $1,000.

Complicated Root Canal

A more complicated root canal, such as one that involves a molar, can be more expensive as these teeth have an increased number of root canals. Molars usually have three or more root canals within them. This makes it a more complicated procedure. Costs can range from $700 to $1,500.

Factors that affect the cost include:

  • Geographic location – dental costs vary greatly from one location to another.
  • Dentist’s experience – more experienced dentists are likely to charge higher fees.
  • Dental insurance – private insurance can significantly reduce out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Severity of infection – severe infections will require more extensive cleaning, additional appointments, or medications.
  • Need for additional procedures – Sometimes procedures like apicoectomy may be needed depending on the extent of the infection.
  • What technology is used – advanced imaging and equipment can make the procedure more expensive.
Why Root Canals Are So Expensive

Root canals are very complex procedures. They require precision and skill, therefore you want an experienced dentist doing your root canal. The process is also quite time-consuming, often taking one to two hours per appointment. High-quality materials, such as dental crowns or gutta-percha, are also used frequently in root canals and add to the total cost. Different dental clinics use different technology, and more advanced technology often costs clinics more to operate.

Root canals are essential dental procedures that are designed to save infected teeth and alleviate pain. Understanding the step-by-step process involved can help demystify the procedure and reduce anxiety. While alternative treatments are available, a root canal is often the best option to preserve your natural tooth and chewing ability.

The costs associated with root canals vary based on the complexity of the case and other factors, but the investment is worth it for maintaining your dental health and overall well-being.

Georgian Dental Is Here for Your Root Canal Needs

At Georgian Dental, we are committed to providing high-quality dental care with a focus on patient comfort and satisfaction. If you are experiencing tooth pain or have been advised to get a root canal, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Your smile deserves nothing but the best possible care, so let our team of experienced professionals provide personalized care and exceptional results in a comfortable and welcoming environment.

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