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Dr. Thomas Vokal DDS, MS
Common Questions

Why would I need a root canal?

Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp of the tooth becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, trauma to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

Signs of pulp damage include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums. Sometimes, there are no symptoms.

Will the treatment be painful?

We will take every measure to ensure that your procedure is in no way uncomfortable or painful. If treatment is needed, we will inject a small amount of anesthesia to gently numb a concentrated area of your mouth. For most patients, the feeling of numbness usually subsides after 2-3 hours. We also have nitrous oxide available upon request for those who need additional help with dental anxiety and phobia. 

Will I experience pain following the procedure?
Most patients will experience mild soreness, particularly to biting or chewing, for a few days. Everyone's rate of healing is different; some patients have discomfort for one day, some for a week. However, if you experience anything beyond mild discomfort, or if you develop any facial swelling, please call the office. 

How long will my temporary filling last?
The filling placed in the biting surface of your tooth is designed to last ideally two to four weeks, not longer than six to eight weeks. It is crucial to see your general dentist for a permanent restoration. Waiting longer than eight weeks can cause your temporary filling to leak, thus contaminating your newly completed root canal therapy.

Does a root canal save a tooth?
The endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the tooth, then fills and seals the space. Afterwards, you will need to return to your dentist, who will place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.

I'm worried about x-rays. Should I be?

No. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontic treatment, we use an advanced non-film computerized system, called digital radiography, that produces radiation levels up to 90 percent lower than those of already low dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. These digital images can be optimized, archived, printed and sent to cotherapists via e-mail or diskette. 

What new technologies are being used?

Computerized Digital Radiography: This is a non-film system that produces images within a few seconds on a computer monitor. Radiation exposure levels are up to 90 percent less than systems that use film.


Operating Microscopes: In addition to digital radiography, we utilize special operating microscopes. Magnification and fiber optic illumination are helpful in aiding the doctor to see tiny details inside your tooth.


Electronic Apex Locators: We use an instrument called an Electronic Apex Locator to aid us in determining the length of canals in the tooth that we are treating. This information helps us to properly clean and fill the canals and to reduce the number of x-rays required for treatment.


Ultrasonic Instruments: These instruments are used to selectively remove tooth structure and obstructions inside the root canals. Specifically, they are used for finding calcified canals, loosening silver points, posts, and for old root filling materials.


What information should I have on hand when I call to schedule my appointment?
  • Name of the dentist referring you to our office
  • Name, address, and date of birth
  • Insurance information
  • Home, work, and cell phone numbers
  • Tooth number, and if the tooth has had previous endodontic treatment

How should I prepare for my appointment?
  • Please arrive at check-in time, we have already allowed time for new patient paperwork.
  • Bring any referral slip/x-ray if provided by your dentist. 
  • All necessary forms of identification- i.e. driver’s license and proof of insurance.
  • Know your medical history, bring a list of prescriptions and over the counter medications. 
  • Please take required pre-medication 1 hour prior to your appointment, if instructed by your health care provider. 
  • You will NOT need a ride, and you may resume regular activity following treatment.