Root canal treatment, or endodontic therapy, is one of the most common procedures performed by dentists. It is a procedure used to repair a damaged or infected tooth, which is caused by deep decay, trauma, or other factors. Root canal treatment can save a tooth that would otherwise need to be removed. Although it may sound intimidating, this procedure is actually very straightforward and is designed to relieve pain and keep your teeth healthy. With this comprehensive guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about root canal treatment, including what it is, why it's done, the steps involved, and what to expect afterwards. By the end of this article, you'll have a better understanding of what root canal treatment is, and why it's an important part of maintaining your oral health.
What is root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment, also called endodontic therapy, is a dental procedure that treats infections, breaks, and other problems inside the root(s) of your teeth. The top portion of your teeth, where you place your toothbrush, is covered by enamel, the hardest substance in your body. However, the roots of your teeth extend below the gum line and are covered with a much softer layer called dentin. The pulp inside the roots of your teeth is full of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue that allow you to sense temperature, pressure, and pain. If a tooth's interior is exposed to bacteria in the mouth, the bacteria can travel through the dentin and reach the pulp. If this occurs, you may experience pain, swelling, and warmth in the tooth. Root canal treatment is performed to remove the infected pulp, clean the root canals, and then fill the canals with a sealant to prevent a reoccurrence of infection in the future.
Why is root canal treatment necessary?
Root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp inside the tooth dies, which can happen when the tooth is cracked or broken, the tooth is decaying, or the tooth has been treated with a large filling. The most common reason for root canal treatment is a bacterial infection in the tooth, called dental pulpitis. The bacteria in the mouth feed on the carbohydrates in your food and grow as a result, forming plaque. The plaque collects in the grooves and crevices of your teeth as well as below and around the roots of your teeth. The bacteria can travel from the plaque up the root of the tooth and into the pulp, causing an infection called dental pulpitis. When your dentist performs a root canal, they are removing the infected pulp from the root of the tooth, cleaning the inside of the root canals, and filling the canals with a substance to prevent bacteria from growing there again. Without treatment, the bacterial infection will spread, causing the surrounding jaw bone to become inflamed and painful as the infection spreads to the bone surrounding the tooth. The pain associated if left untreated can be excruciating.
What happens during the root canal procedure?
During the root canal procedure, your dentist will administer local anesthesia, which is typically a shot in your gums. They will then remove the infected pulp from inside the tooth by first removing a portion of the tooth, extending the root canals down to the tooth's hollow core, disinfecting the root canals, and then filling the canals with sealant. After removing the infected pulp, your dentist will clean the root canals and place the sealant using special instruments designed for that purpose. After the root canal procedure, you may experience some mild swelling and pain in the treated tooth, but this should subside within a few weeks. Your dentist may recommend a follow-up root canal appointment to place a crown on the tooth to prevent additional damage. Root canal treatment can save the tooth from being extracted, but the tooth will be more susceptible to fractures.
What can I expect after root canal treatment?
After root canal treatment, you should expect a slight amount of swelling, pain, and sensitivity around the treated tooth. Swelling should subside within a week or two. As the treated tooth heals, you may notice a slight change in the shape and color of the tooth. You may also notice increased sensitivity to heat and cold, which is normal as the treated tooth heals. The treated tooth may be slightly more susceptible to fracturing, so you should avoid activities that put added stress on the tooth, such as chewing ice or hard foods. You can also make it easier for the tooth to heal by practicing good oral hygiene habits and visiting your dentist regularly.
What are the risks and complications of root canal treatment?
The risks and complications associated with root canal treatment are low, although they do exist. It is important to understand that any time you undergo a medical procedure there is a small risk of complications. While not common, possible complications from root canal treatment include the failure to clean out the entire infection, which can lead to repeat infection, or failure to seal the root canals, which can lead to further infection. If the infection has spread to the surrounding jawbone, complications may include an abscess, a cyst, or a draining sinus near the treated tooth.
How can I prepare for root canal treatment?
Before undergoing root canal treatment, you should take care of your teeth and visit your dentist regularly. Make sure to brush and floss your teeth at least once a day to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. If you have a history of gum disease, severely worn teeth, or brittle teeth, you may want to consider seeking root canal treatment sooner rather than later to avoid further damage to your teeth.
What is the cost of root canal treatment?
The cost of root canal treatment varies greatly depending on several factors, including location, insurance coverage, and the number of teeth requiring treatment. The average cost of root canal treatment is between $1,500 and $3,000.
How can I find an endodontist?
Finding a board-certified dentist who specializes in endodontics (root canals) can help ensure you receive the best possible care. Ask your regular dentist for a referral, or search online for a list of dentists in your area. Once you have a list of potential endodontists, you can use the following tips to help you choose the best one for you: Ask for credentials - When you call to schedule an appointment with an endodontist, be sure to ask for credentials. Ask about treatment options - Before you commit to root canal treatment, be sure to ask the endodontist about other treatment options to save your tooth. Get an estimate - Make sure you receive a written estimate before you undergo any treatment.
Other important considerations for root canal treatment
Find a dentist with whom you are comfortable. You can do this by asking questions to find out more about the practice and the dentist, such as: What training and experience does the dentist have? How many root canals has the dentist performed? What is the dentist's philosophy on root canals? Ask about the dentist's sterilization technique. Root canals are often performed on multiple teeth, and you want to make sure the instruments are being properly sterilized between patients to prevent the spread of infection. Root canals are a common procedure, and you can take steps to reduce your anxiety and ensure a successful outcome. By taking the time to learn more about root canal treatment, you can put your fears to rest and help ensure your teeth remain healthy and pain-free for years to come.