What Does a Root Canal Treatment Entail?
If you have a badly decayed tooth, root canal treatment may be able to avoid extraction. In many cases, root canal therapy is the only way to save a tooth when its pulp – the soft center of the tooth – has become infected.
Root canal treatment – often referred to simply as a root canal – removes infected tissue from the dental pulp in the canal within a tooth root. The medical term for a root canal is endodontics, derived from the Greek for “inside a tooth”.
Healthy dental pulp is crucial when a tooth is growing. It supplies nutrients to the dentin layer of the tooth that supports the outer, protective enamel. However, when a tooth has fully developed, it can survive without pulp or nerves inside the root canal. This is what makes a root canal possible.
Knowing the basics of root canal therapy will not only help you understand the procedure itself but also equip you to prepare for treatment and look after yourself afterward.
The Root Canal Procedure
Root canal treatment entails the removal of diseased tissue and cleaning, filling, and sealing the area. It may take more than one appointment and involves the following steps:
- X-rays or digital scans to determine the extent of infection and damage.
- Anesthetic to numb the area – unless the tooth has died and is no longer sensitive, when a local anesthetic may not be necessary.
- Creating an opening in the crown of the tooth.
- Removing diseased nerve tissue, dental pulp, and blood vessels.
- Flushing and cleaning the area and shaping the resulting space for filling.
- Filling and sealing the root canal with a biocompatible material such as gutta-percha.
- Attaching a dental crown to restore the tooth to full function.
With modern dental anesthesia and advanced root canal techniques, most patients have a comfortable root canal procedure.
Preparing for a Root Canal
Taking certain measures to prepare for root canal treatment will help to ensure a comfortable process and good recovery.
- Eat normally until a couple of hours before treatment – eating after the procedure may be difficult for several hours with your mouth still numbed by the anesthetic.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco for 24 hours leading up to the procedure – it could cause an adverse reaction to the local anesthetic.
- Take ibuprofen a few hours before treatment. Ibuprofen anti-inflammatory pain relief will help ease any swelling later.
- Ask your dentist about any concerns you have about the root canal procedure and what type of foods you can eat afterward.
There’s also a financial aspect when preparing for a root canal – you need to know how much treatment is likely to cost.
Root Canal Treatment Costs
A root canal treatment is generally more affordable than the alternative of tooth extraction and replacement with a dental implant.
According to the American Association of Endodontists, one of the main considerations in root canal costs is the type of tooth that needs repairing.
Root canal treatment for a front tooth costs less than for a back tooth. This is because front teeth have only a single root while molars may contain up to three. More roots mean more work for your dentist and therefore a higher cost.
Root canal cost also depends on factors such as:
- Degree of infection.
- Complexity of the procedure.
- Whether you need more than one appointment.
Most dental insurance policies cover root canal treatment, and payment plans may be available from your dentist to spread the cost to suit your budget.
After a Root Canal
Your tooth may feel sensitive for a few days after root canal treatment, especially if you were experiencing pain before the procedure. Any discomfort can be relieved with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
It’s imperative to carefully follow aftercare advice from your dentist following a root canal. Measures to promote faster healing and minimize discomfort after root canal treatment include:
- Avoiding hard foods for a while.
- Avoiding hot and very cold foods and drinks – they can aggravate tooth sensitivity.
- Refraining from applying pressure on the tooth with your tongue.
- Brushing the treated tooth gently.
If you had a local anesthetic for your root canal procedure, you should avoid eating until the numbness wears off. Otherwise, you risk biting your tongue or cheek.
It’s also important to make sure you get sufficient quality sleep – the body heals itself best when at rest.
When You May Need a Root Canal
A root canal becomes necessary when dental pulp is inflamed or infected. This can have a variety of causes, including:
- Deep decay.
- Repeated dental work on the tooth.
- A chip or crack in the tooth.
- Physical injury.
Signs you might need root canal treatment include:
- Pain – moderate or severe.
- Severe pain when eating.
- Tender, swollen gums.
- Gums darkening in color.
- Tooth discoloration – a sign the nerve is dying.
- Oversensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks.
- Pimples on the gums.
Benefits of Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy ends the misery of toothache and facilitates restoration of the tooth to full function. By removing the bacteria that caused the issue, a root canal also prevents infection from spreading within your mouth and to other areas of your body, including vital organs.
In saving the tooth, a root canal also helps to prevent loss of jaw bone, which preserves facial appearance and structure.
Root canal treatment can rescue a tooth that would otherwise be beyond repair due to serious damage, allowing you to eat the types of food you love and restoring your smile. Now a routine procedure, root canal treatment has a high success rate.
The crucial role of root canal treatment in saving teeth includes:
- Elimination of pain and other symptoms, such as tooth sensitivity.
- Improved facial appearance through preserving jaw structure.
- Safeguarding general health – root canal infection can result in more serious complications if it spreads to other areas of your body.
- Protecting surrounding teeth from excessive wear.
- Giving you a better bite function.
Contact Coeur d'Alene Dental Center if you’d like to know more about what a root canal treatment entails and whether it could save your tooth.