Root Canal Therapy

Infected Tooth
Opening made in tooth.
Infected tissue removed; Canals cleaned
Canals filled with a permanent material (gutta-percha)
Opening sealed with filling. In some cases, a post is inserted for extra support.
New crown cemented onto rebuilt tooth

Inner Tooth Infections

A “root canal,” or pulpectomy, is a treatment for infections in the soft inner tissue of a tooth. Root canal infections can spread into the outer areas of the tooth, causing discoloration. If left untreated, they will affect the health of the jaw and other tissues surrounding the tooth.

About Root Canal Therapy

Root canals are the thin passages that run from the soft inner tissue of your tooth (pulp) to the tip of the root of your tooth. These canals may become infected in a variety of ways, most commonly as a result of untreated cavities. Because the canals contain nerve fibers, infections of this sort are often accompanied by varying amounts of pain.

Root canal procedures not only preserve your dental and oral health, but also improve the appearance of teeth darkened by infection. They are likewise a preventative measure to help you to avoid costly restorations to replace a tooth lost to decay and infection.

Aren't Root Canals Painful?

Many people are concerned by the potential pain of a root canal procedure. You may be surprised to learn that modern day root canal therapy is usually painless and no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed.


After sufficiently numbing the area, Dr. Gibbs creates an opening on the surface of the tooth. He then removes any decayed tissue or bacteria. An instrument called a root canal file is then used to remove the nerve fibers and clean out infected tissue from within the thin canals. We use magnifying equipment to aid in the procedure.

Next, the inside of the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and supplied with initial filling material, accompanied by medications to soothe the area.

A final filling, such as those used to fix cavities, is applied to the surface of the tooth. In many cases, a crown is placed instead of a filling to provide more structural support for the tooth.

Most often, both the diagnostic exam and the root canal procedure can be completed in two office visits.

Post Operative Instructions for Root Canals

Since root canal therapy typically takes at least two appointments to complete, Dr. Gibbs will place a temporary filling or crown over the site to protect your tooth between appointments.

It is common and not troublesome for small portions of your temporary filling to wear away or break off in between appointments. If the entire filling falls out, or if a temporary crown comes off, call the office to schedule a time to replace it.

Make sure that you avoid chewing if anesthesia has been used to numb your lips, gums and tongue. Injury can result in the hours after the procedure while the anesthetic wears off if you attempt to chew normally.

Pain and discomfort are normal for several days after your root canal, particularly when you chew.  Over the counter pain relievers, such as Advil or Tylenol, can help ease your discomfort. Rinsing three times a day with warm salt water will also help lessen pain and swelling. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water, then rinse, swish and spit until you have used the whole cup.

Please take your antibiotics as prescribed for the duration indicated, even if no signs or symptoms of an infection exist.

A few tips to protect your tooth and keep your temporary filling or crown in place:

  • Avoid sticky foods, especially gum
  • Avoid chewing on hard foods and substances, such as ice, fingernails and pens
  • Try to chew on the untreated side of your mouth, if possible
  • Brush and floss normally

Typically the final step of root canal treatment is the placement of a crown. It will protect your tooth from breaking (please see Crowns for more information).

If your bite feels uneven, your pain lasts more than a few days, or you have any other questions regarding your procedure, please call the office to schedule an appointment.