Everything you need to know about the root canal treatment

The root canal treatment refers to a dental procedure that is necessary to address an infection located in the central part of the tooth. Thanks to the modern anesthetics, the procedure is not painful, and it might save the respective tooth. Such infections are commonly caused by tooth decay, trauma, or leaky fillings. The most important thing is that you do not wait and pay a visit to your dentist, as soon as you are dealing with visible signs of infection. If you are interested in discovering more information on this topic, do not hesitate to keep on reading.

What is the root canal?

The root is the one that extends into the jawbone, keeping the tooth anchored in position. It is worth mentioning that the root canal system also contains the dental pulp, which is the soft tissue at the center of the tooth. This is found beneath the white enamel and the hard layer of dentin, and it contains not only blood vessels and nerves, but also connective tissue. The tooth receives nourishment from the tissues surrounding it through the dental pulp, so its role is quite significant.

Root canal cost

The cost of a root canal treatment depends on the severity of the infection and the tooth that has been affected. The most difficult teeth to treat are molars, with higher fees in consequence. Most dental insurance plans offer partial coverage for root canal treatments, but it is for the best to check with your provider first. However, the treatment is expected to cost less than a tooth extraction, especially since the latter requires additional procedures, such as dental implants or bridges. The goal is to restore the chewing function, as well as to prevent the other teeth from shifting. All of these procedures are bound to be more expensive than the root canal treatment.

How long does a root canal take?

The root canal procedure might vary from one patient to the other, and clearly on how severe the infection is. Most patients require one or two visits to the dentist for such treatments. You can expect for the treatment to take between 30 and 60 minutes. However, if the tooth is larger in size and there are multiple roots, the treatment might extend to 90 minutes. Fortunately, you will be under the effect of anesthesia, so you do not have to worry about feeling any pain, only minimal discomfort.

Root canal procedure

The root canal treatment is recommended when the dental pulp has been damaged by a bacterial infection. To determine this for a fact, the dentist might take an X-ray of your teeth. The infection will naturally lead to inflammation, with one experiencing pain when eating or drinking, and the teeth becoming loose. Biting and chewing might become painful as the infection progresses. The symptoms might disappear as the pulp actually dies, only to reappear later on, as the infection reaches the root canal system. You might deal with pain, inflammation, purulent discharge, swollen cheek or jaw, with a visible change in the tooth's color.

Upon noticing the signs of an infection, you should not waste any more time and schedule an appointment with your dentist. An infected tooth cannot heal by itself, and it might cause damage in other teeth as well, as the bacteria spreads. Moreover, the root canal treatment might not be as successful, once the infection has worsened. Your dentist might also prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and reduce swelling, but the root canal will have to be performed nonetheless.

The first step in the treatment involves the removal of bacteria. The dentist will try to remove the bacteria from the root canal system; if this is not possible, the respective tooth will be removed. However, this represents the last resort, as the main goal is to have as many of your natural teeth as possible.

A dental dam will be placed in the mouth, around the respective tooth, in order to keep saliva away. After removing the decay, the dentist will make an opening through the crown of the tooth, in order to reach the pulp chamber. As previously stated, the infection will be removed, if possible. Then, both the pulp chamber and the root canals will be flushed and cleaned. It might be necessary to reshape and enlarge the root canals, so as to fill them. To clear infection altogether, medication might be placed in the pulp chamber and root canals. Antibiotics might be prescribed as well.

Once the procedure has been completed, the dentist will place a temporary filling in the crown. This will protect the tooth, keeping out saliva and any debris. You will be instructed to avoid biting down or chewing on the tooth, until the restoration process is concluded. Temporary fillings might be removed for this procedure, in order to gain access inside the tooth. Filling the root canals is not painful, as it is done under anesthesia as well. To fill the tooth, the dentist will use a sealer paste, in combination with rubber compound. The dental filling will be then placed, with the dentist making sure that the root canals are protected.

In the final stage of the procedure, the dentist will work on the tooth restoration. If the tooth has a large filling or has suffered from extensive decay, addition protection might be necessary. This is done to prevent future damage, but also to guarantee the normal function of the respective tooth. In most cases, a crown will be placed over the tooth. Dental crowns are made from different materials, including gold, porcelain, resin, and porcelain-fused-to-meta. Many crowns nowadays match the color of the other teeth. A metal post might be used to keep the crown in place, especially if the tooth structure is mostly missing. The dentist might be able to provide additional information on other restoration alternatives.

Root canal treatments are usually performed under local anesthesia, and they are not painful. The discomfort experience might be similar to the one of having a filling. After the bacteria has been removed, the root canal will be filled and the respective tooth will be sealed, either with a filling or a crown. The inflammation will subside over time, as the tissue near the tooth will undergo the normal healing process. Root canal treatments usually have a high rate of success, allowing patients to keep the tooth in question.

In the past, people used to be afraid of the root canal treatment, but things have changed a lot in the past decades. This has become a routine procedure, which is virtually painless and quite effective. In choosing this procedure, the doctor will consider the advantages of saving the respective tooth, including the natural appearance, normal biting force and sensation, protecting the other teeth from excessive strain, and efficient chewing. Always pay attention to the signals your body is trying to send, such as the lingering sensitivity to hot or cold, even after the respective influencing factor has been removed.

What to do after the root canal treatment

As the dentist might point out, the after-care process is highly important. You might feel pain or soreness for a few days in the respective area, so the dentist might prescribe pain medication to relieve the discomfort experienced. It is recommended to avoid hot beverages, as well as spicy and hard foods, until the treated area has healed. If you are experiencing intense pain or swelling, do not hesitate to schedule a visit with your dentist.

Simple habits, including the ones related to oral hygiene, can help you prevent the need for additional root canal treatments. You should brush your teeth twice per day, for the recommended amount of time. It is also good to floss and use antibacterial mouthwash. Sugar foods should be avoided, as well as staining beverages and smoking. The better you take care of your teeth and gums, the better your oral health is going to be.

After the procedure, you might experience numbness for a few hours, due to the anesthesia. However, you might be able to resume your normal activities right away. As the dentist might suggest, it is for the best to refrain from eating, until the numbness sensation has disappeared completely. The dentist might schedule another appointment within a few days, taking X-rays to make sure the infection has disappeared. The temporary filling will be replaced with a permanent one. A crown might be placed on the tooth as well, depending on its structure and risk of subsequent damage.

Are there any risks associated with the root canal procedure?

The main purpose of a root canal is to save the infected tooth. However, it can happen that the respective tooth is too badly damaged, or the enamel has become too frail, with extraction remaining the only option. If the infection is not completely cleared or the antibiotics fail to do their job, there is always the risk of developing an abscess, which will require emergency intervention. Before going through with the root canal procedure, be sure to talk to the doctor about the potential risks and how can these be minimized.

Frequently asked questions

Is the root canal procedure painful?

As stated above, the procedure is done under local anesthesia, so you do not need to worry about pain. More importantly, as the infection is successfully removed during the procedure, most patients will experience immediate relief following such treatments. If the pain is still present or you are noticing signs of infection, call your dentist and schedule an emergency appointment.

What is the success rate of root canal treatments?

Root canal treatments are highly successful, allowing patients to keep their natural teeth for as long as possible. If the infection is cleared in time and the tooth restored, the lifespan will be extended considerably. It is also worth mentioning that root canals are 100% safe.

Who will perform the root canal procedure?

The root canal procedure is performed by a dentist or an endodontist. The latter is usually specialized in root canal treatments, among other things. As you might be informed, the general dentist might be able to treat the frontal teeth or those near the front of the mouth, usually those with fewer roots. If the patient requires such a procedure on a tooth with multiple roots, which is more complex, an endodontist might be the natural choice.

What are the advantage of root canal procedures?

Naturally, there are several advantages that can be derived from choosing this treatment. First and foremost, you will get to keep the respective teeth, foregoing the unpleasant tooth extraction. Second, you will prevent the infection from reaching the other teeth and gums. The relief obtained is immediate and you will also reduce the risk of jawbone damage.

What are the potential complications of root canal treatments?

Even though rare, there are situations in which root canal treatments can have complications. If the procedure has failed, you might experience the following symptoms: discomfort or pain, inflammation of the gums, purulent discharge, tooth discoloration, pimples on the gums, and sinus problems. Be sure to talk to your dentist, discussing potential options. You might repeat the procedure or try alternative treatments. Of course, the tooth extraction might be considered as well. Extraction is sometimes necessary, in order to preserve your oral health. Dental implants or bridges might be suggested after the respective extraction.

In conclusion, the root canal procedure is necessary to remove the infected or deceased dental pulp. The relief from the symptoms experienced is almost immediate and you will also protect the health of your other teeth. Root canal treatments are done under local anesthesia, so you do not have to worry about discomfort or pain. The recovery is rapid, and the dentist will probably offer advice on how to maintain excellent oral health. If the root canal treatment fails, the tooth extraction might be recommended. It is also possible that the infection was not completely removed, with visible symptoms. In this situation, be sure to contact your dentist and schedule an emergency appointment.

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