Root canal treatments: Root canal surgery and more

Although root canals have a bad reputation, millions of treatments are performed comfortably and effectively every year.1 If you need root canal treatment, the following information could be helpful.


Also known as endodontic treatment, root canal treatment is a procedure that removes inflamed or infected tissue from inside a tooth. Once the tissue has been removed, the inside of the tooth is cleaned, filled and sealed to prevent reinfection.2

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Signs you may need root canal treatment include:3

  • Constant tooth sensitivity, especially to heat or cold
  • Deep tooth decay
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Pain when chewing or biting
  • Swollen, painful or darkened gums
  • Pimples on the gums


Root canal treatment can be performed in 1 or 2 visits and involves these steps:

  1. Preparing the tooth—The dentist uses local anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding gums. A small protective sheet called a “dental dam” is then used to isolate the tooth and keep it free from saliva during the procedure.
  2. Cleaning out the tooth—An access hole is drilled into the top of the tooth. Tiny instruments are used to clean out the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals before shaping the space for filling.
  3. Filling the tooth—A biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called gutta-percha, is used to fill the empty root canals. An adhesive cement is added to help seal the canals shut, and a temporary filling is commonly used to close the opening.
  4. Capping the tooth—The temporary filling is removed and a crown or filling is placed on the tooth. Teeth toward the back of the mouth used for chewing (molars and premolars) are capped more often than teeth toward the front of the mouth.


Since most people are given anesthesia, the area of the root canal may be numb for 2–4 hours after the procedure. Some swelling, sensitivity and inflammation may also occur for the first few days.4

However, a root canal isn’t more painful than a regular dental procedure. Most people can return to work or school directly afterward, and over-the-counter or prescription medications can help relieve any discomfort.

Humana can help with root canal treatment

If you need root canal treatment, Humana can help. We offer a broad range of dental plans with varying levels of coverage, many with affordable monthly premiums. Some of our plans also feature no waiting periods, which means you could get covered in about 5 days. To see plans and prices in your area, check out our Humana dental insurance page.

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  1. “Root Canal Treatment,” American Association of Endodontists, last accessed May 31, 2023,
  2. “What Is a Root Canal?,” American Association of Endodontists, last accessed May 31, 2023,
  3. “Root Canal Explained,” American Association of Endodontists, last accessed May 31, 2023,
  4. “What Is a Root Canal?”