A dentist examining a patient to see if she needs a root canal


What is a Root Canal and why would I need one?

You may have just been to see your dentist who has told you that you require a root canal. You might have drifted off thinking about it while your dentist explained why, but there’s no need to panic!

Each tooth will have a number of roots, and the canals in each root contain nerves. The procedure of a root canal is where the inside of the tooth – the pulp and nerves –  are removed.

A root canal is often used to treat or save teeth that are damaged, infected, or necrotic (dead). They can be used to save a tooth rather than extract it – preventing other teeth from drifting out of place, and forgoing the need for replacement with an artificial tooth such as an implant, partial bridge, or denture.

How is a Root Canal performed?

  • Your dentist numbs the area around the tooth
  • A dental instrument is used to create a hole on top of the tooth
  • Tools are used to remove the pulp, before using small instruments to clean out the inside of the canals and remove the nerves
  • The inside of the tooth is then coated in a layer of antibacterial solution
  • The canals are filled with a natural rubber-like material that mimics the original tissue of the tooth – this helps keep the tooth strong
  • The crown of the tooth is restored with a filling and shaped, or a crown/cap is placed on the tooth

A cross sectional tooth model showing an infected tooth in need of a root canal

How does this work with my dental insurance?

A root canal is an endodontic procedure and often falls under endodontic or basic restorative services. (Some plans may have it listed as a “Major” dental procedure.)

They can be performed by a general dentist. If your case is complex, the dentist may refer you to an endodontic specialist who will perform the root canal – you would return to your general dentist to have the filling completed on top of the tooth. If you are referred to a specialist, you will need to find out if your plan covers specialist fees or not. Coverage of specialist fees indicates if your insurance would cover the root canal at the specialist fee guide (what the specialist charges), or the general practitioner fee guide (what a general dentist typically charges).


Root canals can be expensive depending on their complexity, so it is highly recommended that you compare the price of your treatment with your remaining annual insurance maximum to estimate how much you will need to pay out of pocket.

This being said, it is important to note that it is best not to delay if you require treatment like a root canal; the longer you wait, the condition of your tooth may worsen and may, therefore, cost you more in remedial treatment. If you are ever unsure about a diagnosis, you always have the option of seeking a second opinion to double-check!

After having an examination with your dentist, you can ask your dental office to submit an estimate directly to your insurance for you or to provide you with an estimate form. Your insurance will process it and send correspondence to you as the policyholder.

Do you think you need a root canal? The first step is to visit your dentist for an examination to see what your options are. Your dentist will be able to advise you if the root canal can be performed at their office or if you are required to visit a specialist. You can book an appointment with us here.

Want to read more? Check out this great summary on root canals by the Canadian Dental Association.
Reviewed by Hammad Afif, D.D.S.

Images sourced on Google.

This blog pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about dental and oral health, and related sub­jects.  The words and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be con­strued as med­ical advice.