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Health Information Center

Root Canal Treatment

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Root Canal Treatment


This procedure removes dental pulp from a tooth. Dental pulp is the soft core of the tooth. It extends from the top of the tooth, called the crown, down to the roots, called canals.

Normal Tooth Anatomy.

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Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to remove pulp that is dead or infected due to:

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Abscess
  • Inability to save the tooth

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Chronic health problems, such as diabetes

What to Expect

The doctor may give:

  • A sedative—you will feel relaxed
  • Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep

Problems to Look Out For

Call the dentist if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness or swelling around the tooth
  • Increased bleeding or other leakage around the tooth
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • A tooth that loosens
  • New or worsening symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Prior to the Procedure

The dentist will meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
  • Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Arranging a ride to and from the procedure




  • Acute apical dental abscess. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-apical-dental-abscess.
  • Root canals: FAQs about treatment that can save your tooth. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/all-topics-a-z/root-canals.
  • What is a root canal? American Association of Endodontists website. Available at: https://www.aae.org/patients/root-canal-treatment/what-is-a-root-canal.


  • Mark Arredondo, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.