by EBSCO Medical Review Board


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

Prior to the Procedure

Your 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


The doctor may give:

The doctor may give:

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

Description of the Procedure

A small hole will be made through the top of the tooth and into the pulp. Small tools will be inserted into the 4 tooth canals to remove the pulp. The canals will be cleaned and reshaped. Medicine will be used to destroy any bacteria. The canals will be filled with dental material. A temporary filling will be put in place to protect the tooth.

Most people will need a custom dental crown to protect the tooth. It may be ready at the same time the root canal is done, or it may be ready in a few weeks. The temporary filling will be removed and the crown will be put in place.

How Long Will It Take?

The root canal will take 1 to 1.5 hours.

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. Pain and swelling are common in the first few days. Medicine and home care can help.

Post-Procedure Care

At the Care Center

Right after the procedure, the dentist may give you pain medicine.

At Home

It will take about a week to fully heal. Physical activity may be limited during this time. You may need to delay your return to work.

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, swelling, a lot of bleeding, or any discharge 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.


Mouth Heatlhy—American Dental Association 

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research 


Canadian Dental Association 

Dental Hygiene Canada 


Acute apical dental abscess. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 21, 2022.

Root canals: FAQs about treatment that can save your tooth. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: Accessed April 21, 2022.

What is a root canal? American Association of Endodontists website. Available at: Accessed April 21, 2022.

Revision Information