Root Canals: Causes and How to Prevent Them

Root Canal vs. Implant: What is a Root Canal?

Root canals are one of the most common dental procedures in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 25 million root canals are performed each year. But what causes them to be required? And more importantly, how can you prevent them from happening to you? In this article, we will discuss the causes of root canals and provide some tips on how to avoid them!

What is a Root Canal?

Root Canal Vs Crown: Tooth Anatomy

To understand how to prevent a root canal from occurring, it’s first important to understand bacteria in the mouth and how they destroy your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth feed off of sugar and produce acids which eat away at the surface of the tooth. If the damage is contained only to the outer surface of your tooth, known as the enamel, it can be reversed with proper care.

But if the bacteria penetrate deeper, to the layer underneath the enamel known as the dentin, this is typically known as a cavity. These must be filled by a dentist to prevent further damage. If the bacteria continues to spread, it can reach the pulp chamber at the center of your tooth, which contains the blood vessels, nerves, and other tissues that keep your tooth alive. This is what causes a root canal to be needed; if the bacteria spread to the pulp chamber and destroy these vital tissues, it can cause an infection which requires the removal of the damaged tissue.

A root canal is a procedure that dentists perform that involves removing the infected or damaged pulp from the inside of your tooth. Once the pulp is removed, the area is sealed with a material, such as gutta-percha, to prevent further infection. A crown is then typically placed over the affected tooth to protect it and restore its function.

The cost of root canals and the price of crowns is extremely high, which leads many people to avoid getting the procedure done. Unfortunately, if the infection isn’t treated, it can be extremely painful and lead to more serious problems, such as jawbone deterioration or even tooth loss. Therefore, it is much easier and more cost-effective to prevent a root canal from occurring in the first place.

What Causes a Root Canal?

Ideally, a dentist will be able to diagnose a cavity before it progresses to the point where a root canal is needed. This will depend, however, on how often you visit your dentist. Even if a dentist is able to identify these signs early on, there are many things that patients can do to prevent cavities from forming in the first place. The main causes that lead one to require a root canal include the following:

Not Brushing and Flossing Regularly

The best way to avoid a root canal is to properly maintain your oral health. This means brushing and flossing at least twice a day. Plaque build-up can occur on your teeth if you don’t brush or floss regularly, which will eventually turn into cavities if left unaddressed. This is especially the case near the gumlines and in between the teeth.

Proper brushing technique includes gently brushing the teeth in a circular motion, while also making sure to brush the entire surface of each tooth (such as behind the teeth, near the back teeth, and the gumline). Be sure not to brush too much, as this can injure your gums and lead to gum recession and bleeding gums.

Proper flossing technique includes gently flossing between each tooth, making sure to hug the sides of your teeth and reach below the gumline on both sides of the tooth.

Eating Sugary Foods

Sugar provides lots of energy for the human body. Unfortunately, it also provides energy for the bacteria in your mouth. Eating sugary foods and drinks provides fuel for the bacteria to grow and reproduce, which can lead to more decay in your teeth. The best way to reduce this risk is to limit your intake of sugary snacks, such as candy and soda, as much as possible.

Not Visiting the Dentist Regularly

Visiting the dentist at least twice a year is essential for maintaining good oral hygiene. During these visits, your dentist will be able to clean away any plaque and tartar build-up that you might have missed while brushing and flossing, as well as identify any signs of damage or decay in your teeth before it progresses to the point of needing a root canal.

Dentists and hygienists have more tools at their disposal that can help keep your teeth healthy and free of decay. For example, they can use fluoride treatments to help strengthen weak spots in your teeth and even reverse a cavity.

Remember, as soon as you feel pain in one or more of your teeth, it’s important to visit a dentist right away. The earlier the problem is identified and treated, the lower the cost of treatment will be and the less likely you are to require a root canal.

Other Smaller Factors

Several small things can increase your risk of requiring a root canal. These include:

  • Smoking and Vaping: These can decrease the flow of saliva in your mouth, leaving it more vulnerable to bacteria. (Read more about how vaping is bad for your teeth)
  • Arrangement of Teeth: If your teeth are too close together, it can be harder to brush and floss between them properly. This is why getting braces can improve not only the look of your teeth but also their health.
  • Grinding and Clenching Teeth: This can cause enamel to wear down faster, creating weak spots where bacteria can enter and cause decay.
  • Age: Younger and older people are more at risk of decay and cavities. For younger children, this is most likely because they aren’t brushing correctly yet, while for older people, it is usually because their teeth are more fragile due to wear and tear.


Requiring root canals are most often caused by neglecting your oral hygiene, such as not brushing and flossing regularly, eating sugary foods, and skipping dental visits. However, there are many things you can do to prevent cavities from forming in the first place.

By addressing these causes of root canals, you can help keep your teeth healthy for years to come. Regularly visiting your dentist for check-ups and cleanings is also essential for maintaining good oral hygiene. A little bit of prevention now goes a long way toward avoiding the pain and cost of a root canal later on.

If symptoms of an infection worsen or if you experience extreme discomfort, please reach out to your dentist immediately for further assessment and treatment options!


The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, and other material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nothing on this website constitutes the practice of medicine, law or any other regulated profession.

No two mouths are the same, and each oral situation is unique. As such, it isn’t possible to give comprehensive advice or diagnose oral conditions based on articles alone. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best dental care possible is to visit a dentist in person for an examination and consultation.


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