Root canals are complex dental procedures that require a variety of specialized tools. Your endodontist may use some or all of the following during your root canal procedure.

endodontic burs

Endodontic Burs

Burs are the first tools used during a root canal. They open the inside of the tooth so the canals can be reached. Burs come in different shapes and sizes depending on the type of tooth and treatment.

root canal explorer

Root Canal Explorer

This small, pointed tool is used to explore the inside of a tooth once it has been opened by burs so the endodontist can find orifices. Sometimes an explorer may be used to remove small amounts of calcification.

endodontic excavator


Similar to, but longer and sharper than, explorers, excavators remove small amounts of tissue from inside the tooth.

barbed broach

Barbed Broach

The barbed broach is used to remove the majority of tissue from inside a tooth. It is inserted into the tissue so its barbs will grab the tissues when the tool is removed.

Peeso Reamer Drills

Files and Reamers

Like long, thin drill bits, these tools come in a variety of sizes. They are used gradually, the smallest first, to open and widen the canals so they can be accessed by the next appropriate tool.

gates glidden drills close up

Gates-Glidden drills

This kind of drill bit helps to further open the canal, particular in molars. They are also used during root canal retreatment to remove gutta-percha, which is a putty-like material commonly used to fill root canals.

Peeso Reamer Drills

Peeso Reamer

This tool is used exclusively to remove gutta-percha during retreatment.

Ultrasonic Instruments

These tools can be used to uncover calcified canals and remove restorative and endodontic materials from the canal space within the tooth. These instruments operate through vibration and emit a high pitched sound that can be surprising when they are first turned on.

About the Author

Dr. Harris has been a practicing dentist since 2005. In 2012, he received his Master’s of Science in Dentistry and a certificate in Endodontics. He founded East Coast Endodontics shortly after receiving his master’s degree. He also currently holds a part-time position as a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Endodontics department at Virginia Commonwealth University. View his full bio.