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What’s a Root Canal?

Root canals are procedures that remove infected or damaged pulp from the inside of your tooth root when there is no way to treat the infection or repair the damage. The infection is usually from untreated decay that has spread, although the pulp can also suffer damage from trauma or extensive dental work on the tooth. Fortunately, an adult tooth can still function without pulp, which is why dentists say root canals preserve teeth.

When Does a Dentist Decide That I Need a Root Canal?

A dentist uses x-rays and the results from your examination, along with your symptoms, to make a diagnosis. The typical signs that you might need a root canal include:

  • Pain, unprovoked and spontaneous
  • Pain when you bite down
  • Lingering hot and cold sensitivity
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Facial swelling
  • Tooth darkening

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, call our office to make an appointment.

Should I Have My Root Canal Done by a Dentist or an Endodontist?

Endodontists are specialist dentists who receive at least two additional years of training in treating diseased tooth pulp after they graduate dental school. Their specialty is recognized by the American Dental Association. During dental school, both endodontists and general dentists train in performing root canals. A general dentist is usually skilled at performing root canals, only referring patients to an endodontist if the procedure will be complicated or the patient needs re-treatment.

What Can I Expect During the Root Canal Procedure?

You can expect to be in the chair at least an hour, longer if the damaged tooth is a molar. The basic steps include:

  • Your dentist numbs the area where he or she will work. Work won’t commence until you cannot feel any pain.
  • We isolate the tooth, usually with a sheet of rubber that allows the tooth to stick up through it. This ensures that no saliva, which has bacteria in it, gets into the canals.
  • Your dentist makes an access cavity in your tooth to reach the canals. The hole, either on the back of your tooth or on the chewing surface, is small since dentists use special thin instruments during the procedure.
  • The canals are cleaned out, shaped into smooth, hollow tubes and then irrigated to remove any debris.
  • Your dentist will fill the canals with a biocompatible material and seal them with dental cement.
  • A temporary filling closes the access cavity and your dentist will explain that he or she will take the filling out when you get your custom root canal crown to cover the tooth. Once you have the crown, your tooth will be fully functional. Avoid chewing hard foods on the affected side until you have your crown.

You can expect minor discomfort for a day or two afterward. Typically, over-the-counter pain relievers are enough to ease your discomfort.

What Is the Root Canal Cost I Can Expect to Pay?

The cost for the procedure varies. We cannot tell you what your cost will be until our dentist examines your mouth and reviews your x-rays. The condition of your tooth plays a major role in determining your cost, as does the tooth’s location in your mouth. Front teeth, which have the least number of roots, are less expensive to treat than molars, which have the most roots. Fortunately, dental insurance plans usually offer some coverage for root canals. Having a dentist perform the procedure is less expensive than when an endodontist does it. Contact our office to make an appointment and our dentist can tell you what your dental root canal will cost.

Are There Different Types of Root Canals for Unique Situations?

Yes, standard root canals are not right for everyone. An apicoectomy is a form of endodontic surgery used to treat infected teeth after failed nonsurgical root canals. The surgery can uncover hidden canals that didn’t show up on previous x-rays. A dentist removes the root tip and any infected tissue and then places a root-end filling. There are also pediatric pulpotomies, which are used on baby teeth. A dentist removes infected pulp from the pulp chamber in the tooth, leaving the pulp in the roots. After the procedure, we will put a stainless steel crown on the tooth so the tooth will last long enough to save a space for the adult tooth when it emerges.

How Painful Is a Dental Root Canal Treatment?

It’s a myth that root canals are painful. Please don’t put off treatment because you’ve heard root canals hurt because it’s not true. Years ago, the procedure hurt. Today’s dentists use local anesthetics to numb patients and stop toothache pain permanently. If you need help with a toothache from a root canal dentist that cares about your comfort, contact our office for an appointment. The sooner you call for an appointment, the more options you’ll have for treatment.

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