Emergency Root Canals: Your Ultimate Guide to Relief (and How to Avoid Them)

What's the secret of avoiding a root canal? Visit your dentist!

“It looks like you’re going to need a root canal.”

Have you heard that phrase before?

You may be wondering:

“I don’t feel any pain. I’m just going to wait until my tooth is painful. Then, I will get a root canal.”

Seems logical, right?


The longer you delay your root canal treatment, the more likely you’ll need an emergency root canal – putting you in pain and costing you more money.


There’s no need to fear. In this blog post, we’re going to cover:

  • Commonly asked questions about root canals
  • How you can get relief if you’re experiencing an emergency root canal
  • How to avoid them altogether

Are root canals considered a dental emergency?

The short answer:


The longer answer:

A root canal is needed because the infected tooth is dying, and the longer you delay treatment, the better chance the tooth will die. From there, your dentist will need to extract the dead tooth to prevent further infection.

Not to mention:

The longer you wait, the more pain you will be in. Emergency root canals are responsible for over 400,000 hospital visits!

When do I need a root canal?

Root canal therapy is needed when damage, decay, or infection to a tooth has progressed from the enamel to the tooth pulp (the nerve). When this happens, a dentist or endodontist needs to remove the infection through a root canal.

5 signs you need a root canal: Severe tooth pain, discoloration of teeth, prolonged sensitivity, gum swelling, persistent gum pimples

If you’re noticing these symptoms, chances are you will need a root canal:

  • Severe toothache when chewing or biting down
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Discoloration of the tooth (darkening)
  • Swelling or tender gums near the infected tooth
  • Pimples on the gums


Sometimes none of these symptoms show up, making people think they can delay treatment, putting their oral and overall wellness at risk.

How you can avoid getting a root canal (in the first place):

It’s so important to visit your local dentist for regular checkups (comprehensive exams and hygiene cleanings) every six months.

When you visit your dentist, he or she looks for any signs of tooth decay and infection. Then, your dentist can take care of it right away before it gets worse.

Here’s the deal:

Being proactive with your oral health will save you time and money in the long run.

We’ve heard from patients before that they were going to wait on getting a root canal until they felt pain.

Want to know what happened?

They experienced excruciating pain AND a much higher bill.

If your dentist recommends you need a root canal, don’t wait until you’re in pain. Take care of it now!

How to get relief (in the meantime) if you need a root canal:

If you’re experiencing any tooth pain or sensitivity, there are some at-home remedies to help relieve the pain:

  • Place ice over the area that’s sore or tender
  • Apply a hot pack to the side of your jaw
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers (Advil, Tylenol, etc.)
  • Swish a combination of salt and warm water around your mouth
  • Take a cotton ball, soak it with apple cider vinegar, and press it gently on the infected tooth

Emergency root canals are responsible for over 400,000 hospital visits. That's $163,692,957 total in costs!

Are root canals safe?

Absolutely! In fact, this procedure has a high success rate (25 million endodontic procedures are performed successfully every year) and can last a lifetime – without any painful symptoms.

Why so high?

It’s because dentists have access to advanced technology and safe materials to make the procedure a success and pain-free.

“I’ve heard root canals cause cancer. Is that true?”

Root canals DO NOT cause cancer.

That is a century-old myth created by Dr. Weston A. Price where he conducted research, claiming harmful bacteria can be left behind and leaked from a root canal. In turn, this causes harm to a person’s overall health.

According to the American Association of Endodontists, decades of research have refuted those findings.

“This false claim was based on long-debunked and poorly designed research conducted nearly a century ago, long before modern medicine understood the causes of many diseases. There is no valid, scientific evidence linking root canal treatment to disease elsewhere in the body.”

How to increase your success rate with root canals:

The answer is simple.

The sooner you can complete your treatment, the better your chances of success!

Waiting only worsens the infected tooth, making root canal therapy more complicated and increasing your risk of complications.

What do you do if your root canal therapy fails?

This is a surgery, so there’s always the possibility you’ll experience root canal complications, including:

  • Pain
  • Additional problem areas
  • Undetected cracks in the tooth root
  • Defective materials

If that is ever the case for you, it’s important to contact your dentist right away.

Your dentist can take a closer look at the underlying issue and may need to perform the procedure again or pursue other dental restoration options, including extractions, dental implants, or dental bridges.

Are root canals painful?

This procedure has received a stigma that it’s a painful process.

However, that’s far from the truth.

Advancements in dentistry and technology have made root canals a virtually painless procedure.

Here’s how a root canal works:

  1. Your dentist or endodontist will give you an anesthetic (just like you would a dental filling), so you don’t feel anything the entire time.
  2. He or she will remove the infected pulp and other harmful bacteria.
  3. Then, the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed with a safe, durable material.
  4. Finally, your dentist will restore the tooth’s function with a porcelain crown.

That’s it!

If you are still nervous about the procedure being painful, you can always ask your dentist if sedation dentistry is available. Depending on the level of sedation, you can feel completely relaxed and at ease the entire time.

You may not even remember the procedure.

How to manage any post-op pain at home:

Since root canals are considered surgery, it is common to experience some discomfort as your tooth heals.


There are ways to manage the pain to make the recovery process more comfortable.

  • Follow your dentist or endodontist’s instructions carefully.
  • Take over-the-counter medication (Advil, Tylenol, ibuprofen, etc.).
  • Avoid chewing or putting pressure on the affected tooth until you receive your final restoration.
  • Keep up with your oral hygiene routine (brushing, flossing, and check up visits with your dentist).

Who does a root canal?

Two healthcare providers can perform this procedure: a dentist and endodontist.

An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in saving teeth and treating the dental pulp.


It’s not uncommon for general dentists to perform root canals along with other dental procedures.

How can you find out if your dentist does root canals?

Not all general dentists are created equal.

General dentists who can perform root canals are well experienced in the procedure, receiving extensive and hands-on training.

When consulting your dentist, make sure you ask him or her these questions:

  • What are your credentials to perform root canals?
  • How many hours of CE do you take to perform root canal therapy?
  • Is a root canal necessary?
  • What if I don’t do the root canal?
  • How predictable is the treatment?
  • Should I have this done by a specialist or can you do as good of a job as a specialist can?

Your dentist will answer honestly and truthfully.

If they are unable to perform the root canal, there’s a good chance they’ve developed professional relationships with well-respected endodontists near you.

As a dentist in Beaverton, Dr. Bruno da Costa consistently pursues continuing education to perform root canal therapy in his office.

If you ever have any questions on how to find a specialist in root canals, you can always call him at Harmony Dental – 503-639-6900.

How much are root canals?

Here’s the deal:

There isn’t a set price on root canals. It depends on multiple factors, such as the complexity of the infection and the patient.

Below are the national average costs for root canals:

  • Front teeth: $300 – $1,500
  • Bicuspid: $400 – $1,800
  • Molars: $500- $2,000

Please note: These costs represent the average costs for root canals nationwide. It doesn’t necessarily reflect the dental costs at Harmony Dental.

Will dental insurance cover the root canal cost?

Yes, insurance does typically cover a portion of root canal treatment. Probably around 50-90% of the procedure.

However, it depends on your insurance provider.

How can you get a root canal without dental insurance?

About 74 million Americans don’t have dental insurance, so dentists have found ways to work with those who do not have insurance without hurting their wallets.

It’s important to invest in your oral health (or else it will cost you more in the long run).

Talk to your dentist about financing or if they have an in-house savings plan to make dental care affordable.

At Harmony Dental, we’re considered one of the best dentists in Beaverton because we want all of our patients to have access to quality dental care. That’s why we are flexible in terms of insurance and financing:

  • Accept most dental insurance
  • Allow financing and accept CareCredit

Think you need a root canal? Act now!

You have all the information you need to know about root canals.

Now it’s time to talk to your dentist!

At Harmony Dental, our dentist in Beaverton, OR is committed to providing high-quality dentistry to all of Oregon, including Beaverton, Tigard, Portland, Cedar Hills, Lake Oswego, Raleigh Hills, Sherwood, Garden Hom, Tualatin, and West Slope.

If you have any questions about root canals or anything else, contact our office – at no cost to you!

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