5 of Your Biggest Questions About Root Canals Answered

Root canals are one of the most feared procedures in dentistry. Fortunately, they don’t have to be! Dr. Mullins and the rest of our team have dedicated countless hours to staying ahead of the curve when it comes to dental procedures and technology. To help you feel more comfortable with the procedure, the team at My Family Dentistry has answered the five biggest questions about root canals.root canal near me

The five biggest questions about root canals are:

  • What is a root canal?
  • When do I need a root canal?
  • Do root canals hurt?
  • How do I have the best root canal possible?
  • How long does it take to recover from a root canal?

1. What is a root canal?

A root canal is when the infected or inflamed pulp within the tooth is removed by your dentist. This occurs when bacteria have infected the root canal of one or more of your teeth. Root canals allow our team to preserve your tooth while preventing another infection in the future. 

Removing the infected or inflamed tissue is only part of the root canal process. During your procedure, we will also protect the tooth with:

  • Cleaning
  • Disinfecting
  • Filling
  • Sealing

Dr. Mullins or Dr. Owen will start with an X-ray if they suspect you have a tooth infection. If signs of an infection are present, they will begin prepping for your root canal procedure.

Click here to learn everything about root canals that you were afraid to ask!

2. When Do I Need a Root Canal?

Infections that require a root canal can occur for a number of reasons. One common cause is a cracked tooth. Cracks in the enamel and dentin of your teeth create pathways for bacteria to reach the soft inner tissue (pulp). This is where the nerves and blood vessels of your teeth are located. Other causes include tooth decay or multiple dental procedures on the same tooth. 

Common symptoms of a tooth infection include:

  • Discoloration
  • Pain when the tooth is exposed to hot or cold liquids
  • Difficulty talking or chewing due to swollen gums

These signs may indicate that the nerve tissue inside your tooth is breaking down. It creates the ideal environment for bacteria to live and grow, which can result in decay and even abscesses

It’s important not to delay getting treatment if you suspect that you have a tooth infection. They can lead to more problems and be more costly further down the line, so seeking treatment sooner is better than later.

To learn more about the reasons you may need a root canal, click here!

3. Do Root Canals Hurt?

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Few words strike fear into dental patients like “root canal” and this is understandable. This procedure used to be much rarer and was a lot more painful in the past. However, the past 30 years or so have seen great strides in making it into a virtually pain-free procedure. This means that the pain associated with root canals is practically nonexistent.

At My Family Dentistry, we strive to make your root canal as comfortable as possible thanks to a combination of advanced anesthetics and techniques. Our own staff can attest to this from personal experience. In a recent Mission Minutes video on Facebook, dental assistant Kate explained:

I know root canals in the past and even now have a really bad reputation for being the most painful procedure you can go through in dentistry. I’m here to assure you that that’s not the case here. A root canal is a very lengthy process but almost all of the patients I’ve had fall asleep and end up snoring in the chair.

Many people experience anxiety about root canals and visiting the dentist in general. At My Family Dentistry in Powell, TN, we take a comprehensive approach to your oral health to alleviate these fears. This allows us to navigate issues such as cavities, gum disease, and other problems in a comfortable, stress-free environment.

Click here to learn more about how we address dental anxiety at My Family Dentistry in Powell, TN!

4. How Do I Have the Best Root Canal Possible?

A little bit of knowledge goes a long way when it comes to root canals. Start by talking to Dr. Mullins or Dr. Owen and doing some reading about what to expect during your procedure. This will help remove any worst-case scenarios you have. This way you will know that root canals aren’t as complex or invasive as you previously thought.

You can also help your root canal go more smoothly by taking extra good care of your teeth. Make sure to brush a few times a day and floss every evening. Just make sure to be gentle as you clean your teeth in preparation for your procedure.

Dress comfortably on the day of your appointment. It can take anywhere from an hour to a few hours to complete your root canal, so you want to make sure that you’re wearing comfortable clothing. It can also help to bring a friend if you suffer from dental anxiety. They can provide moral support as well as a ride home after your procedure.

To learn more about how to prepare for your root canal, click here!

5. How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Root Canal?

It usually only takes a few days to recover from a root canal. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a root canal is only part of the treatment process. A filling or permanent crown is required in order to strengthen and protect the tooth from future damage and infections.

Your tooth may be extra-sensitive for a few days after your root canal. You may also have a sore jaw from holding your mouth open for a long period of time. Swelling can also occur, which can be addressed with a bag of ice or frozen food wrapped in a towel. Just hold it to your face for a few minutes to help reduce the swelling.

Numbness is a common side-effect of root canals so you should avoid eating until you have regained feeling so you don’t bite your tongue or cheek. You should also avoid hard foods or foods that are difficult to eat since they may damage your tooth before your permanent crown is set. It’s also a good idea to avoid strenuous exercise since this diverts blood and slows the healing process.

Your dentist will recommend over-the-counter medications or prescribe something to reduce pain. Although this may make it easier to chew and perform other functions, it’s important that you be gentle on your tooth until you’re fully healed. You should still brush and floss regularly but take extra care to be gentle when you do.

Click here for more tips about the root canal healing process!

Success rates for root canals are over 95% but that doesn’t mean problems can’t occur. Root canals can still fail, usually due to a crack in the tooth or if there was more damage than expected. 

Contact our office immediately if you experience:

  • Noticeable swelling on the inside or outside of your mouth
  • Symptoms of your infection returning
  • An allergic reaction to the medication
  • A loose temporary filling or crown 

This will alert our team that something is wrong and help you get the treatment that you need to protect your tooth and overall oral health.

Do you need treatment for an infected tooth? Contact us today to schedule your appointment!


Root canals are a dental procedure where infected or inflamed pulp inside the tooth is removed. Pulp becomes infected when bacteria gets inside the tooth from a crack, decay, or multiple procedures on the tooth. Root canals can be virtually painless thanks to modern anesthetic and techniques. Preparing yourself beforehand can help the procedure go more smoothly and following your dentist’s instructions will ensure that your root canal is successful.

My Family Dentistry is open Monday through Thursday. Give us a call at (865) 947-6453 or you can schedule an appointment online.

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