by Dr. H. Kopel
Comedians are wrong, there are many things worse than getting a root canal.
In fact, root canals are usually painless procedures just like fillings or crowns. That's because once local anesthetics are placed and profound anesthesia achieved the nerve is blocked from sending pain signals to the brain regardless of the procedure being done to the tooth. Inside every tooth there is a nerve and accompanying blood vessels which can become inflamed or infected.
A root canal is simply removing the nerve, cleaning the canal space, preparing the canal space and finally putting the root canal filling inside the root. This is accomplished by making a small hole through the top of the tooth or crown and using a special material called gutta percha to fill in the space previously occupied by the nerve.
Root canals are typically done in one visit. However if the tooth is badly infected a preliminary procedure called Open and Medicate or Open and Drain is done first. Basically the root canal procedure is started to provide infection and pain control for the patient. Then the remainder of the root canal procedure is done a subsequent appointment.