If you have a severely damaged or decaying tooth or a serious tooth infection, your dentist may recommend a root canal treatment. While many knees quake at the thought of root canals, the truth is they are actually very common procedures. Due to dental advances and local anesthetics, most people experience little or no pain with a root canal. In fact, it's probably more painful living with a decayed tooth.
What is a Root Canal?
Root canal treatment is a straightforward procedure done to relieve dental pain and save a tooth. During the root canal procedure, your dentist carefully removes the pulp inside the tooth, cleans, disinfects and shapes the root canal, and inserts a filling to seal the space. Patients typically need a root canal when there is inflammation or infection in the roots of a tooth. If untreated, the tissues around the root of your tooth can become infected. It can increase the risk of tooth loss because bacteria can damage the bone that keeps the tooth connected to the jaw.
What to expect?
A root canal usually requires one to three visits, depending on what tooth and why the tooth needs a root canal. A broken tooth with a very large cavity and multiple roots will take longer than a tooth with a simple root system with less damage. There are typically 4 steps to a root canal:
- Anesthesia - Topical numbing medication is placed on your gum near the affected tooth before a local anesthetic is injected.
- Pulp removal - The dentist makes a small opening in the top of the tooth and carefully removes the pulp and any cavity or broken fragment
- Shaping and Cleaning - Next, the root canals are slightly widened and cleaned with materials that will prevent any reinfection. The dentist will then fill and seal the tooth with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha.
- Build up filling- The dentist will end the procedure by filling the small opening in the top of the tooth with a filling material to help strengthen the tooth. This filling builds up the tooth so that it can support a crown that is typically needed after a root canal.
For the first few days after your root canal, the tooth may be sensitive and sore. If pain or pressure lasts more than a few days, be sure to talk to your dentist.
How much does it cost?
Root canals can cost anywhere from $500-$1500 for the entire procedure, but keep in mind that most root canal treated teeth will need a crown after its completion to support the tooth long term. Most dental insurance plans cover 50% to 90% of root canal procedures after a deductible is met. Dental insurance deductibles are usually less than $200.
What do we offer?
At Anderson and Atkins, root canals are performed at our office, but for particularly difficult cases, we may refer to specialists called endodontists to ensure a successful outcome. Root canals at our office typically either take 1 or 2 appointments, depending on the tooth. It's important to know that most teeth that have root canals will need crowns after the completion of a root canal to help support the tooth since the tooth will be weakened with its core gone. We often compare it to an apple without a core - it can easily break if not supported. The most difficult cases for root canals are the ones with large cavities where patients have waited until they really hurt. It is best to come in at the first sign of pain so that severe pain can be avoided. Nitrous gas is available for patients who desire it.
The Bottom Line
Despite what you may have heard or read, the goal of a root canal isn't to cause you pain. Instead, the goal of the procedure is to save a tooth that is severely infected. The dental professionals at Anderson and Atkins are happy to help you consider your options and relieve your fears. To discuss any concerns, questions, or anxiety you may feel about your upcoming root canal or if you have any questions about our practice, please feel free to contact our office at (979) 846-1813 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: https://www.aae.org/patients/root-canal-treatment/what-is-a-root-canal/, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/r/root-canals