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What Are the Three Stages of Root Canal Treatment?


A root canal treatment is a common dental procedure that can help patients retain a damaged or infected tooth. The name of the process refers to the canals that house nervous tissue inside of a tooth’s roots. This tissue and the pulp around it can become infected, which can cause pain and eventually an abscessed tooth.

When a tooth becomes seriously damaged or decayed, the issue can lead to a bacterial infection of the nervous tissue inside the root canals. The only effective solution other than extraction is to remove the pulp and tissue inside the tooth.

The nerves inside a tooth don’t affect your ability to eat or speak, so removing them is no problem. If you’re suffering from toothaches, your dentist could investigate the possibility of an infection. A root canal treatment could be your best option for saving the tooth if any is present.

Your Root Canal Treatment

If the dentist does determine that a root canal treatment is the most effective path forward, then they’ll carry out a reasonably standardized process that delivers consistent results. Your treatment is divided into three distinct stages, each of which is necessary to save the tooth and provide lasting oral health.


The first stage of root canal treatment is called extirpation. It focuses on initial cleaning to reduce the risk of bacterial infection. To begin, the dentist applies a local anesthetic to numb the area of treatment. This is more than enough to ensure that the patient doesn’t experience pain during the procedure, with very few patients undergoing more than minor discomfort.

Like in many other procedures, a rubber dam is placed around the tooth, isolating it from the rest of the mouth and providing a suitable working area for the root canal treatment. A small opening is made at the top of the tooth to allow access to its interior, making it possible to clean out the tooth’s root canals with specialized files.

The tooth and this opening are treated with an antibacterial solution that prevents bacterial growth and infection. At this point, a temporary filling is placed over the hole, and the patient will return within one to two weeks for the next step of the treatment. This isn’t always the case, as both steps can sometimes be performed during a single visit.


If the second step is being performed during a separate visit from the first, then it will begin with removing the temporary filling from the opening in the top of the tooth. From there, the dentist beings the instrumentation. This is a more thorough cleaning of the tooth’s root canals that is focused on eliminating any infection.

Because the primary focus of the root canal is preventing infection, this step is incredibly important. In order to ensure that it has been entirely cleaned, the dentist takes physical measurements of the canal depth and compares them with your dental X-rays.


The third step is obturation, the filling of the root canal. With it now fully cleaned out, the dentist can now seal it to prevent any future bacteria from getting inside. A polymer material is applied to the depths of the root canals to ensure a complete fill that includes all nooks and crannies. On top of this material, a conventional dental filling is applied, much like the material used for treating cavities.

In some cases, additional damage and decay can require a dental crown to replace a top portion of the tooth. Crowns can often provide better protection and longevity for the tooth, but they aren’t strictly necessary in most root canal treatments.

After Your Root Canal Treatment

Most patients experience only mild side effects following their root canal treatment. As the local anesthetic wears off, there will likely be some soreness, and you could see some swelling in the gums. Over-the-counter pain medication is typically enough to manage these after-effects.

Within just one day after your root canal treatment, you should be completely back to normal.

There will be a follow-up appointment later on, with X-rays to verify that everything has gone according to plan. Most patients don’t experience any further issues related to their root canal treatment as time goes on.

Find Out If You Could Need a Root Canal Treatment

You can reach out to Dental Implant and Aesthetic Specialists of Atlanta if you’ve been experiencing toothaches or would simply like to schedule a regular checkup. Dr. Brett Langston can determine whether you need a root canal treatment and provide the highest quality of care. Contact us today to book your appointment.