Many people often feel apprehensive when their dentist suggests root canal therapy. After all, most people have probably heard the old cliché, “I’d rather have a root canal.” Although many people think it is painful, root canal therapy is a pain-relieving treatment and surprisingly more common and safer than you think.
What is Root Canal Therapy?
Root canal therapy, also known as endodontic treatment, is a procedure that removes infections from inside a tooth and protects it from future damage. The roots of a tooth contain the blood cells and nerve tissue, also known as the pulp. The pulp nourishes your tooth and provides moisture to the surrounding tissue. When the enamel of your tooth deteriorates from decay or trauma, the pulp becomes exposed. It is the nerves in the pulp that sense hot and cold temperatures as pain.
Signs that you may need root canal therapy include:
- Swollen or red gums
- A cracked tooth
- Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold
- A dark or discolored tooth
- Pain when chewing
- Injury or trauma to the mouth
Benefits of Root Canal Therapy
There are several reasons why dentists recommend root canal treatment. Endodontic treatment helps you keep your natural tooth, eat the foods you love, and minimizes the need for ongoing dental treatment.
With proper care, teeth that have had root canal therapy can last a lifetime. Other benefits of root canal therapy include:
- Virtually Pain-Free Procedure: Root canal treatment is almost painless and leaves you with less discomfort during recovery than a tooth extraction. Dentists use modern technologies and anesthesia to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible throughout the procedure.
- Efficient & Cost-Effective: Root canal therapy is quick and cost-effective. It can prevent the need for an extraction and the follow-up appointments required for an implant, denture, or bridge.
- Visually Appealing Result: A custom prosthetic crown is used to complete root canal treatment and restores function and aesthetics. Also, leaving your tooth in place prevents adjacent teeth from shifting out of position.
Overview of the Treatment
Root canal treatment is done in three simple steps, and it typically takes between one and three sessions to complete. The first appointment includes a full exam with x-rays and a consultation to give you all the information you need to feel confident about the procedure. At the second appointment, these steps are performed:
- Cleaning: After administering local anesthesia, the dentist makes a small access hole on top of your tooth and removes the dead and diseased pulp tissue.
- Filling: Next, the dentist cleans, shapes, and disinfects the canals using specialized tools and irrigation solutions. The dentist then fills the canals with an antibacterial material and seals the tooth.
- Adding a Crown or Filling: The top part of the tooth will be protected using a custom crown designed to blend naturally with the surrounding teeth. Once the crown is placed, you will no longer feel any pain when biting or chewing.
The root canal procedure typically takes only one appointment. However, if you have an extensive infection, curved canals, or very long canals, you may need additional appointments. In most cases, your third and last appointment is the crown placement. After root canal therapy, the tooth will still receive nutrients from the ligaments that anchor the tooth to the bone.
As with all dental procedures, follow-up care is critical to preventing further infections. To avoid complications, you should always follow the instructions given by your dentist. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to take them as directed.
To support your recovery, your dentist may recommend the following:
- Eat soft foods for the first 24 hours after the procedure
- Use pain medicine if needed, though the pain typically subsides after 24 hours
- Avoid chewing on ice or using your teeth as tools
- Brush teeth before bedtime and at least one other time every day
- Use toothpaste with fluoride
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace it periodically
- Schedule biannual dental checkups and cleanings
- Floss regularly to clean between teeth and prevent plaque buildup
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks and follow a healthy diet
- Drink plenty of water daily
- Wear a mouthguard when participating in sports activities
How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?
The cost of your root canal treatment depends on many different variables. Which tooth needs treatment, the canals’ complexity, and the type of final restoration you choose are just a few. Many dental practices offer in-house payment plans or credit programs to help you get the care you need. The price of a root canal may seem expensive, but the preservation of your smile is well worth the investment.
Root Canal Therapy is Nothing to Fear!
Root canal treatment is a highly successful procedure that has helped millions of people keep their natural teeth. It can also save you money by preventing the need for complex restorative treatments.