What is a Root Canal?
What Causes Root Canals?
Signs You Need a Root Canal
How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?
Root Canal Procedure and Treatment Steps
Root Canal Aftercare
Questions Related to Root Canals
The term “root canal” can refer to both the inner part (passages) of the tooth between the pulp and tooth roots, and to the dental procedure used to remove infected material and relieve root canal pain. The root canals contain nerves and blood vessels. Once an adult tooth has emerged from the gums, the tooth’s nerve doesn’t serve a specific purpose other than sensing heat, cold, and other stimuli. Removing a nerve in an infected tooth is part of a standard procedure to treat teeth pain caused by decay or infection in the tooth pulp.
Common causes of root canals pain include:
- Damage: Tooth decay that has penetrated the outer layers of the teeth causes root canal pain.
- Decay: Cracks or chips in teeth can cause tooth decay and root canal pain.
- Disease: Repeated dental procedures in the same area can promote deep tooth decay and root canal pain.
Risk factors for infection in the tooth pulp include severe tooth decay, trauma to the tooth, recent dental procedures, large fillings, and cracks or chips in the teeth. If the cause of your teeth pain is serious decay or infection in the tooth pulp, your dentist may recommend a root canal.
Not all types of teeth pain are indications for a root canal. But signs of infection severe enough to require a root canal include:
- Serious teeth pain when eating or when you put pressure on the area
- Teeth pain and sensitivity to hot or cold that lingers after the hot or cold stimuli have been removed
- A small, pimple-like bump on the gums near the area of teeth pain
- Darkening of the tooth
- Tenderness or swelling in the gums near the area of teeth pain (1), (2)
A root canal procedure is less expensive than having a tooth removed and replaced with a dental implant. On average, the cost of a root canal in the United States is about $350 for an incisor and at least $520 for a molar. The cost varies depending on the severity of disease and the type of dental professional who treats the problem. An endodontist may charge more than a general dentist, for example.
A root canal is a multi-step dental procedure that involves removing the infected tooth pulp (and sometimes the nerve) from a tooth, and sealing it to protect against future teeth pain.
Here’s what you can expect when you have a root canal procedure to relieve root canal pain:
- Setting the Scene: Your dental professional will take an x-ray to determine the extent of the infection.
- Numbing Up: The first step in the actual procedure is a local anesthetic to numb the area and prevent teeth pain during the procedure. You will receive a local anesthetic to make you more comfortable, and a sheet of rubber called a “rubber dam” will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry.
- Diving In: Next, your dentist or endodontist will drill an access hole into the tooth and use special tools to remove the damaged nerve and pulp tissue.
- Closing Out: Once the infected material is removed, your dentist will either seal the tooth on the same day, or put in a temporary filling to protect you from root canal pain until a customized crown is ready. Sealing the tooth involves placement of a rubber compound into the root canal where the decayed material was removed. A filling is placed over the access hole.
- Finishing Up: A crown, filling, or other tooth restoration completes the process of relieving your root canal pain. In some cases, your dentist may leave the tooth open so additional material can drain out of the tooth before it is filled and sealed. Some dentists will put a temporary filling in the tooth to protect the area while the infected material drains away completely. Many people who have undergone the procedure say it is no worse than having a cavity filled.
Getting a Crown After The Root Canal
At your next appointment (usually in a few days or up to a week), a special composite filling will be placed in the center of the tooth. A tooth that has undergone a root canal almost always needs a crown or some other tooth restoration to protect what remains of the tooth and guard against future tooth pain.
Pain After A Root Canal
After a root canal, you may experience some tooth pain and sensitivity. Be sure to follow a regular oral care routine to maintain your crown and avoid future tooth pain. If you notice increased tooth sensitivity after a root canal, try using soft-bristled toothbrushes and oral care products designed specifically for sensitive teeth.
- Do Root Canals Work?: Root canal pain is relieved after most root canal procedures. Data from root canal procedures show a 95 percent success rate, and many teeth that are preserved with root canal procedures can last for the rest of your life.
- How Do I Prevent Root Canal Pain?: To help prevent the need for future root canal procedures to relieve root canal pain, follow a regular oral care routine of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing, and see a dental professional regularly to check the condition of your root canal treatment and any crowns or fillings.