What is a root canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure that fixes an infected or abscessed tooth. It requires that we access the tooth into the nerve canal and remove the infected or dead tissue. The root of the tooth is then filled with material that holds the space in the canal and prevents bacteria from entering the tooth again.
Prior to a root canal procedure, the pain that a patient feels is from the abscess on the tooth that has bacteria that is inside it. The bacteria at the root of the tooth is causing swelling and infection that leads to pain. After successfully completing the root canal procedure, the tooth will act as a functional tooth and a happy chewer.
The entire process consists of two appointments and from start to finish can take about two to four weeks. This is because it takes several days for the chronic pain to completely settle down after removing the abscess from the tooth. Which is why it is advisable to allow the tooth time to recover and for the swelling to completely heal, before we place a permanent filling or crown. While not always necessary, it is often advisable to place a permanent crown on the tooth following a root canal.
- The benefit of a root canal is that you get to keep your tooth as opposed to having it extracted.
- A root canal also allows the tooth to continue to act as a functional chewer and an aesthetic tooth.
- It gets rid of the infection which is the source of pain, which means your tooth stops hurting!
- Sometimes root canals are not effective. That only happens in about 5% of cases. The other 95% of the time root canals are successful, and they effectively remove the infection and completely eliminate the pain allowing the patient to keep their tooth.
- A root canal costs more than an extraction, but you do get to keep your tooth, and it is more aesthetically pleasing.
Alternative Treatments To A Root Canal
The only alternative to a root canal is extracting the tooth. Once the root of a tooth is infected or abscessed, you must extract the tooth or treat the nerve (perform a root canal).
Frequently asked questions about root canals
What is an abscessed tooth?
Abscessing happens when there are bacteria inside a tooth that is causing an infection. Tooth decay is what brings the bacteria inside the tooth. That bacteria then pushes through the root and it causes the area to become inflamed, and it also begins eating away at the bone at root area of the tooth and it begins causing swelling or infection at the base of the tooth or the root of the tooth.
- When we say a tooth has abscessed it is because the tooth is causing the patient pain because there is an infection on their tooth.
- Common misconception: Some people think that abscessed is synonymous with tooth decay, but tooth decay actually causes a tooth to abscess.
Why do I have to have a crown placed on my tooth when I get a root canal?
During a root canal (or any dental procedure that is addressing a tooth with severe decay and infection) a significant portion of the tooth is removed and replaced with a filling. Anytime a dentist removes a significant portion of a tooth, it compromises the structural integrity of the tooth, and the tooth has a higher likelihood of breaking. A crown is often advisable during a root canal because it strengthens the tooth and increases the lifespan of the tooth.
What is the cost of a root canal?
As with most dental procedures, the cost can vary depending on the particular insurance that the patient has. In most cases, insurance generally covers a portion of the cost of a root canal. The patient portion of a root canal can range from $400-$800.
What are the steps in a root canal procedure?
- Apply local anesthetic to the tooth and surrounding area.
- Place a rubber dam to isolate the tooth.
- Access the nerve canal through the tooth.
- Remove all decay and infected tissue.
- Fill the nerve canal and the tooth.
- Place a temporary filling or crown.
- Schedule a second appointment in 2-4 weeks.
- Place a permanent filling or crown on the tooth.
Where can I learn more about the root canal procedure?
If you have questions about the root canal procedure we always encourage you to call our office, and Dr. Browne or Dr. Crowley would be more than happy to answer any questions you have.
We also would recommend reading the Wikipedia page on root canals or reading the PDF that the American Dental Association published on root canals.