Root Canal…Don’t Be Scared…It’s Just a Word

At some point or another, all of us will visit the dentist for one reason or another: some for basic oral hygiene; some as a result of injury and others for necessary dental procedures to ensure good oral health well into the future.

However, just the mention of certain dental procedures can cause anxiety in some of us. This is normal. Over 24 years of experience has taught me a few things about managing patient anxiety. For instance, I always advise people who are going to have procedures like wisdom teeth removal, or dental implants not to tell anyone. If you do, in most cases, the person you tell will likely fill your head with scary thoughts that are usually not true….”I had a friend who had an implant and it was so painful,” or “I know someone who had their wisdom teeth taken out and they ended up in the hospital.” The same goes for root canals. My advice is not to tell anyone when you are having a dental procedure.

What Is A Root Canal?

Anatomy of a tooth for a root canal

Molar Anatomy

First, a short lesson in dental anatomy. In the accompanying picture, you can see that in the interior of the tooth there is a central nerve. When this nerve becomes infected by a large cavity or traumatized as a result of an injury, we need to treat it. This means that we remove the nerve tissue inside of the roots and fill the roots up again with an “artificial nerve.” We don’t take the actual roots out! Many people think we do and they wonder how the tooth stays in… so, the roots stay in, we just remove and replace the nerve inside.

We do this through a series of special files that clean out the nerve tissue inside the root canal system. Technology has made it easier for us to do this, which means that you in turn will feel little, if any discomfort afterwards. In addition, with fast acting anesthetics and a skilled practitioner, there is no reason to feel anything while the procedure is being performed.

Goal of the Root Canal

The goal is to clean out the nerve tissue inside of the root canal system. To do this, we need to disinfect the area and make sure that no bacteria remain inside the roots. In addition, at the end of each root there is a hole, much like that which is present at the opening of a bottle. It is vital to ensure that we completely plug up the hole at the end of the root, much like we would plug a cork into a bottle.

I hope that in some small way you have a better understanding of what a root canal involves. And remember, if you are going to have one, don’t tell anyone.

For more tips on surviving a root canal check out 7 Tips on How to Get the Best Root Canal Ever.

About Dr. Axelrad
Dr. Axelrad is a Brampton Dentist who has owned and managed his own dental practice since 1997. Affectionately known by his patients as the Gentle Dentist, he moved his practice to its current, state-of-the-art dental office in Brampton, Ontario in 2002 to accommodate his growing list of happy patients.


  1. Thanks for the tips. Would you answer a personal question for me? How would I get my daughter (6) to be "ok" with going to the dentist? Any help will do.

    • loriherbert says:

      Hi Jasper, thanks for the comment. The best way to help a kid feel comfortable at the dentist is to have them bring comfort with them. Does your daughter have a special doll or blanket that she sleeps with at night? Maybe she can bring a picture of a pet or something that she really likes. Tell her to hold it during her appointment and it will help her stay brave. Be supportive of her but don\’t coddle her. Kids sometimes do better in the dental chair when their parents are not there. It almost seems like they feed off the parents fear of them being scared so they get more scared, it can be like a cycle. I am assuming your daughter has already had some experience going to the dentist since she is six, but if not just talk about the dentist like an exciting new adventure. I always try to make my appointments with kids fun so they like coming back to see me. I hope this helps. Sorry it took me so long to respond.


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