Root Canal: Symptoms, Causes, Procedure & Prevention

by Jinal Gangar last updated - Medically reviewed by Dr. Anu Isaac (DMD)

More than 15 million people undergo a root canal treatment every year and what’s frightful is that this number has not witnessed a decline since 2006. Maintaining a healthy set of teeth is important, not only for your ‘say cheese’ moments but also for your overall health. Root canal therapy is one way to restore the health of your teeth after an infection. Here, you will know how it works and what can you possibly do to protect your teeth from infections.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal, also known as endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure that is devised to eliminate bacteria and repair a damaged tooth. It helps in relieving the endless pain caused by the infection and makes it easy for you to chew efficiently while also protecting your teeth from excessive tension. Not only does it heals the damage, but also brings back that smile, which may have lost its life due to the constant discomfort and pain in the mouth. [1]

Close up shot of a woman smiling and pointing to her teeth

Root Canal Symptoms

There are many signs that will tell you that it’s time to undergo a root canal treatment. They include the following: [2]

  • Unusual and ongoing toothache while eating something or applying pressure on it
  • Swelling of gums and a feeling of tenderness
  • Color of the tooth changing to a darker shade
  • Recurring pimples around the gums
  • Constant sensitivity to hot and cold food

Root Canal Causes

When the soft tissue inside the root canal becomes infected, a need for therapy arises. According to the American Association of Endodontists, there are four very prominent causes of a root canal and they are: [3]

  • Broken, cracked or chipped tooth
  • Rotten tooth or a presence of decay in the tissue underneath the tooth
  • A weak dental crown
  • Frequent dental treatments on the tooth

How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

The root canal procedure, in most cases, takes about one and a half hour for one tooth. The time, however, varies depending on the degree of the infection.


A root canal is a painful process so the doctor starts with giving you anesthesia to numb the pain. Then the dentist or the endodontist uses a drill to get access to the infected part of your tooth and gum. With the help of equipment like files, the bacteria-infected pulp from that part is removed and the pathways inside the tooth are cleaned with a disinfecting solution. Once the use of germ-cleaning medicines is done, the pathways are sealed. [4]

Root Canal Recovery

To counter the discomfort or pain after the root canal therapy, the doctor may also suggest an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug. While you can return to your routine the same day, it is suggested to avoid chewing aggressively with the affected part of the mouth. Lastly, the American Association of Endodontists suggests that all the patients go for regular dental checkups to make sure there is no further affliction. [5]

two toothbrushes as well as different toothpastes of green and while color on a blue background

How Can You Prevent a Root Canal?

Saving your teeth from unwanted disease or infection takes a regular effort. A few things you can do to prevent root canal are: [6]

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day to keep your teeth clean.
  • Floss your teeth once a day to remove plaque.
  • Rinse your mouth with water after every meal.
  • Wear a well-fitting mouth guard while playing sports to avoid trauma/tooth injury.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for a checkup and address the minor dental problems.
  • If you tend to grind or clench your teeth, look for a night guard to protect your teeth.
  • Consume a diet full of healthy, unprocessed foods that do not cause decay.

To sum it up, take care of your dental health by eating healthy, keeping your mouth clean, paying attention to even minor tooth/gum problems, and seeking timely medical intervention! Protection Status
About the Author
 Jinal, an ex-banker who has completed her MBA in finance from Mumbai University, is passionate about health and wellness. She is a social media enthusiast. She has completed an online program on “Introduction to Food and Health” from Stanford University, US. On weekends you can find her in cafes or movie theaters. Positivity drives her and she finds peace in cooking, reading, and coffee!
Rate this article
Average rating 3.8 out of 5.0 based on 3 user(s).