Is Root Canal Treatment a Surgery?

Many people fear root canals because they do not understand exactly what they are. Root canal treatments are essential dental procedures that are necessary to prevent the dangerous spread of infection and save your tooth.

In this article, we’ll explain what a root canal is and how we classify it.

What is a Root Canal?

Typically, what most people think of as a “root canal” is a dental procedure called Non-Surgical Root Canal Treatment, or NSRCT. So the answer to our title question is right there in the official name of the procedure: it is non-surgical. Let’s explain why.

When your dentist or endodontist performs a root canal treatment on a tooth, he or she works within the confines of that tooth. The purpose of a root canal treatment is to remove all of the soft tissue from the hollow center of the tooth. This tissue, called the pulp, contains nerves and blood vessels, and it often suffers from infection due to large cavities or cracks in the teeth. This tissue does not have the ability to repair itself.  Once infection reaches it, we must remove all of the tissue inside the tooth.

Your dentist opens the hollow chamber by making a hole into the tooth called the access opening. Through this access, he can then remove the infected soft tissue, cleaning and sterilizing the inside of the tooth. After a thorough cleaning, your specialist then fills and seals the hollow chamber with a biocompatible material.

Throughout the root canal procedure, the dentist will take multiple x-rays to confirm the accuracy of the cleaning and filling.

Are There Surgical Root Canals?

Since the most common type of root canals are non-surgical, are there surgical root canals?


A surgical root canal is necessary when there is significant infection surrounding the tooth’s root, which requires your endodontist to work both inside and outside the tooth. To get to the “outside” of the root where the infection resides, a surgical opening is necessary.

Surgical root canal treatments are more complicated and require a higher level of skill. At Empire Dental Specialty Group, our endodontists have the education and training necessary to perform these more complex procedures.

The “surgical” part of the treatment is due to the need to reach the outside of the tooth’s root, and your endodontist does this by surgically accessing it through the surrounding jawbone and gum tissue. Your surgeon makes an incision in the gum tissue and creates a small hole in the bone to get to the area of infection.  After treatment, the doctor closes the surgical site with stitches, and healing ensues.

When Does a Tooth Need Surgical Root Canal Treatment?

Surgical root canal treatments are necessary when the removal of the pulp tissue does not resolve the tooth’s problem. This means that a surgical root canal treatment may follow a non-surgical treatment when the infection does not heal.

Surgical root canal treatments are also necessary to address issues with roots that have not fully developed or show signs of external deterioration.

More Questions about Root Canal Treatments?

Call Empire Dental Specialty Group today to schedule a consultation with one of our excellent endodontists.  We have appointments available at either of our Beavercreek and West Chester offices and can answer all of your questions about root canals and help you obtain the treatment you need to keep your mouth healthy!