The dreaded root canal is one of the most feared dental procedures practiced today. No one looks forward to one, and it doesn’t help that TV and the media have further promoted cultural discomfort around root canals. However, because they are so common, most dentists are very good at them, and you have nothing to worry about. Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself.

Ask lots of questions about the procedure. You must have some, nearly everyone does, because root canals are often misunderstood, or people are too afraid to ask questions about them. Every year, there are about fifteen million root canals performed. How many has your dentist done? How long will the procedure last? Should you have someone pick you up? What are your options for anesthetic?

Follow your dentist’s pre-surgical instructions. If you are prone to infection or have certain conditions, your dentist may recommend a round of antibiotics prior to your procedure just to make sure that you do not experience an infection that can lead to severe consequences later on. Be sure to let your dentist know about any medications you are taking, in particular those that can cause excessive bleeding. You may even need to avoid eating or drinking the night and morning before the operation. If you forget instructions or are not sure what you should be doing before the procedure, do not be afraid to call the dentist and ask.

If you have insurance, contact your provider in advance and find out how much coverage they will provide. No one wants to find out a few weeks after mouth surgery that they have to pay a big dental bill. There can be some confusion about whether oral surgery should be covered by your medical or dental insurance, so definitely make sure you get a hold of your provider to find out who should be billed. Your insurance will do a pre-procedural assessment to find out what your costs might be and help you lay out a billing and payment plan.

Plan for your recovery. Most people don’t plan for after their recovery and they regret it. You will need to find someone to pick you up after your procedure. If your dentist recommends taking any medications or pain relievers during your recovery, it’s a good idea to stock up. Take time off of work if you can, and plan ahead a few days for meals that are easy on your sore mouth.

After dental surgery, you’ll want to take a day off of regular brushing and flossing but don’t wait more than a day or two to get back into a regular oral care routine. You don’t want to give acid-loving bacteria time to get comfortable and risk infection in your sore, vulnerable mouth.

Root canals seem terrifying, but with the right amount of forethought and the right questions, this procedure can leave you with a healthier, pain-free mouth than you had before.