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444 St. Michaels Dr. Suite B

Santa Fe NM 87505

What is a Root Canal?


When your teeth decay, or if they are damaged in an accident, it can cause the tiny canals in your teeth to become infected. That leads to diseased pulp inside your tooth, accompanied by extreme swelling and discomfort. A dental root canal is a treatment used to save a tooth that is decayed and/or infected to prevent surgical extraction of the tooth. The canals are filled and the tooth receives a non-toxic filling made out of tooth-colored, bio-compatible materials.

Signs You Need a Root Canal

"Do I need a root canal?" Only a dentist can answer that question, but following are some indicators:

  • Swelling - Any swelling around the root of the tooth could signal a brewing infection.

  • Change in color - If the tooth changes from a gray to black or yellow, you may need a root canal.

  • Pimples - If you have a pimple or boil at the site of the problem tooth, talk to your dentist.

  • Pain - Pain isn’t always an indicator of a root canal, but it can be. Regardless, any time you have dental pain, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

It's important to remember that every case is different, and not every symptom above may be present. In fact, a tooth in need of a root canal may not show any signs at all! 

This is why it is vital to have regular dental checkups. Routine X-rays can detect changes. If the dentist finds a dark spot near the root--referred to as radiolucency—it’s a warning sign that something is wrong and a root canal may be needed.

Root Canal Myths vs Facts

There’re a lot of misconceptions about root canals. While those two words fill many hearts with dread and fear, the truth is, you shouldn’t believe the hype. 

There are several myths about this much-maligned procedure. For example:

Myth: Root canals are always painful.
Fact: Getting a root canal is no worse than having a regular cavity filled. In fact, if the infection has caused an abscessed tooth, a root canal may actually relieve pain.

Myth: Root canals aren't healthy and actually cause disease in other areas of the body.
Truth: There is no valid scientific evidence to support this. Many patients who turn to internet searches for research will find a lot of misinformation, including pages devoted to research that has long been debunked or disproven. If you want online information on the pros and cons of root canal treatment, be sure you use reliable sources such as the American Dental Association and the American Association of Endodontists. 

Myth: It's better to have the tooth removed because your root canal may fail.
Fact: Saving your natural teeth is usually your best option. Root canals have a high success rate. Most root canals easily last ten years, and many last a lifetime.

If you have any of the signs of a root canal listed above, don't panic. Advancements in dental treatment and technology make this procedure no worse than getting a cavity filled. Signs indicating the need for a root canal vary greatly from person to person, so the best way to avoid one is to regularly meet with your dentist to stop problems before they start.