Smile Arts of NY

Emergency Root Canal: NYC Dentist Tells You Everything You Need to Know

There’s no question that tooth pain is one of the worst pains to experience; what might seem like a small ache can soon turn into a dental emergency. At SmileArts, we offer plenty of same-day appointments to ensure that urgent problems are addressed as soon as possible. Whether you’re suffering from a problem wisdom tooth, a chipped incisor, or are in need of an emergency root canal, NYC is lucky to have our experienced team of dental professionals on hand to help you.

An unplanned dental trip can be a downer for your travel plans to the Big Apple, however, it’s important that you visit a professional if you’re experiencing an urgent problem. This can include losing a crown, a cracked tooth, or an infection. But by far one of the most common cases will be the need for an emergency root canal. NYC has plenty of excellent dentists to help resolve this issue, but it’s good to be prepared. Here is a brief overview so that you know what to expect.

What is a root canal?

Most people have heard of the procedure, with many a movie or sitcom depicting a character who has to endure the procedure, but most people don’t actually know what it is unless they’ve experienced it themselves. This has caused it to become something of a dreaded event in popular culture. While it’s certainly no picnic, with a good dentist, it doesn’t have to be an ordeal.


To understand what calls for the need for the procedure, dentists like me would say it’s best to start by learning a little about tooth anatomy. You’re probably familiar with the term ‘enamel’, which is the white outer layer. Underneath that lies the hard layer of dentin, and under that is the soft tissue, which is called pulp. This pulp is essential to a tooth’s health as it contains all the blood vessels, connective tissues, and nerves, which are important during tooth development and for the survival of a mature tooth.

Front Tooth Root canal
Front Tooth Root canal with Rescue Post.

This pulp starts in the crown and goes down the canal towards the roots. If this pulp gets infected or inflamed, that’s when you may need to see an emergency dentist. If you have a problem inside the canals, this is when you might need an emergency procedure. Dentists will then treat the issue with an endodontic (meaning inside the tooth) treatment. This kind of dental problem can be caused by deep decay within the canal, leaky fillings, or trauma to the tooth.

How do you know if you need one?

If you need an emergency root canal, NYC dentists will be able to determine whether you’re a candidate or not pretty soon. However, it’s important to be aware of your symptoms and contact your dentist as soon as you feel that something is wrong. If the pulp is infected, you could experience severe pain when eating or drinking hot and cold food or drink; chewing in general may cause pain; and your tooth might even feel loose.

Tooth pain NYC

If you leave the problem for a while, these symptoms may appear to disappear. But this isn’t a good sign, I’m afraid. It could mean that the pulp has died and the infection can spread further into the root.

Later symptoms could include:

  • Discoloration
  • Swelling around the gum
  • Pain when chewing
  • Signs of infection 

What makes it an emergency?

The severe discomfort alone warrants calling this procedure an emergency. Root canal (NYC professionals would all agree) is an essential treatment that can prevent further and more severe health problems. If you’re experiencing acute symptoms of decay, you’ll want to see a dentist as soon as possible for your own comfort. However, there are some serious consequences if you do not attend to the root cause (excuse the pun).

Molar tooth infection
Molar tooth infection

What happens if you wait too long?

As I mentioned above, leaving the infection to fester can have ramifications and cause further problems down the line. Simply put, leaving it too long allows the infection to spread further and will end up making the treatment more complicated. Not only does this put you at risk of losing the tooth entirely due to bone loss, but the infection could even spread throughout the body and in very severe cases, this can be life-threatening. Don’t ignore it: if you think you need the procedure, we have excellent dentists to help you resolve the issue.

Digital Dentist
Dr. Tina Tong taking a digital scan for veneers.

What is the procedure?

If you have a pulp infection, you have two options: an extraction or an emergency root canal. NYC dental professionals will nearly always recommend that latter, as you will always want to avoid removing teeth, if possible. Generally, the procedure will only need two appointments, with the first one being the most important. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Firstly, your dentist will take an x-ray of the tooth to see exactly where the infection is. You’ll then be treated with a local anesthetic to numb the area – you shouldn’t feel any pain during the procedure. The area is then isolated with a dental dam so that the dentist can get to work.
  2. A small incision will be made in the tooth’s crown. Using small instruments the endodontists will clean the pulp and remove bacteria from the system.
  3. Once cleaned the empty root cavity will be filled with gutta-percha, which is a biocompatible material to prevent any infection from recurring. You may then have a temporary filling fitted to close the opening.
  4. Your second and final appointment will involve having a crown or other dental restoration fitted to ensure that it is protected.

Does the procedure give immediate relief?

Since you will have been numbed for the procedure, you should feel immediate relief straight after your appointment, especially compared to the pain that you would have had before treatment. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it is quite an invasive procedure, so swelling and sensitivity is normal. The tooth will feel different to the others, as well. It’s a good idea to book a follow-up appointment to check that everything is healing well and progressing as it should.

NYC Dentist

How long does it take to recover?

If you follow your endodontist’s instructions, you should be fully recovered in a few weeks. But since the procedure is considered minor surgery, you may experience some discomfort during the recovery period. You can go ahead and treat any kind of pain as you normally would, by taking medication such as Advil or Tylenol. It’s also best to avoid chewing on the side of your mouth where your treated tooth is and stick to softer foods. 

Dental Cleaning

The most essential and effective way to ensure that you have a full recovery – and avoid similar problems later on – is to keep up with your oral hygiene. This means brushing and flossing twice a day and making regular visits to your dentist in the future.

Emergency Root Canal: NYC Dentists Share Some Facts

Dr. Zhi
Dr. Rebecca Zhi

How much does it cost?

It’s pretty hard to put an exact price on an emergency root canal. NYC dental surgeries may have different prices compared to LA surgeries, for instance. The real determining factor is the complexity of the infection, however, so you’ll need an appointment to assess the damage before you can know the real cost. Which tooth is infected can also alter the price, such as whether it’s a molar or a front tooth.

Can this cause cancer?

Absolutely not. Any theories that it can cause cancer are unfounded and it is a complete myth. In fact, the procedure can prevent further health problems that might be caused by the spread of infection.

Will it kill the tooth?

No. If you leave the problem too long the infection could eventually kill the tooth, but a root canal ensures that the tooth continues to function as usual. It will just remove the nerves but these are not necessary for a healthy tooth.

Can you eat before the treatment?

Although this is considered a kind of surgery, since you’ll only be treated with local anesthetic you are able to eat right up until your appointment. Just be sure to brush your teeth well before settling down in the chair!

Can you drink alcohol after treatment?

Yes! Once the anesthetic has worn off and you begin to feel better again, you can eat and drink as you normally would – alcohol included.

Can you be put to sleep for the surgery?

Usually, you will just be treated with local anesthetic so that only the area being treated is numbed. However, if you’re feeling especially nervous you could be offered a general anesthetic. This will vary from practice to practice, so it’s best to consult with your dentist about what will work best for you.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of root infection and think that you may need an emergency root canal, NYC-based dentists at Smile Arts are here to help. Contact us as soon as possible and we can get you booked in for an appointment on the same day, or as soon as you are available. Over the years, our experienced professionals carried out many successful emergency root canals; NYC is lucky to have such credible and reliable endodontists. Just give us a call or email us at your convenience.

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About Dr. Peter Mann

Dr. Peter Mann

Having completed NYU School of Dentistry and a General Residency program in Kings County hospital.  Dr. Peter Mann has trained with some of the top world renowned dentists.  Being recognized in 2009 with a fellowship award from the (ICOI) International Congress of Oral Implantology and in 2012 with a fellowship award from the (AGD) Academy of General Dentistry.   

In 2009 Dr. Peter Mann decided it was time to achieve his vision by opening his dental office to provide outstanding dental services to NYC residents.  Smile Arts of NY is located  in the heart of Manhattan on E. 40th between Madison and Park ave.

Originally born in Ukraine, when iron curtain of communism collapsed his family took the opportunity to pursue the American dream by moving to New York. Dr. Peter Mann has lived in New York ever since, for over 33 years. His goal is to provide excellent dental experience for his fellow New Yorkers.

Dr. Mann lives minutes from the office. Patients undergoing treatment have his cell phone number and can always get in touch with any questions or concerns. It’s not unusual to see Dr. Mann arriving after hours to help a patient with an emergency.