A root canal is one of the most common oral surgeries performed in dentist’s offices across the country. Despite how common they are, many patients feel uncertain or even frightened of the prospect of having to undergo a root canal. However, root canals are very simple and often do not require the hours of time and intense pain that they did in the past. 

The Fundamentals of Root Canals

“Root canal” can also refer to the inner part of the tooth between the pulp – the soft tissue of the tooth – and the tooth roots. Root canals are also a standard dental procedure to remove the infected material and to relieve pain in the root canal caused by the pulp becoming infected.  Once an adult tooth has emerged from the gums, the nerve inside only serves to detect changes in temperature, from hot to cold, and some other stimuli. Treating nerve pain is the standard procedure for teeth that have become infected due to tooth decay or due to an infection of the root pulp.

Causes of Root Canals

There are three primary causes of root canals. Luckily these are largely manageable factors, so as long as you stick to a daily dental care regimen your chance of having to undergo a root canal is minimal.  Tooth decay is the most common cause and is when bacteria have eaten through the outer layers of the teeth and began to grow inside the tooth, causing root canal pain.  Damage is another major cause, as cracked or chipped teeth can allow for bacteria to get into the soft, exposed tooth root and so multiply and cause tooth decay and root canal pain. Various oral diseases are also big factors in increasing your risk for infection, as they lower your body’s ability to fight off infection. If the cause of your tooth pain is serious decay or infection in the tooth pulp, your dentist may recommend a root canal. 

How do I know if a root canal is appropriate for me?

It is important to note that not every kind of tooth pain is an indication that you are due for a root canal. However, there are a number of signs that your tooth pain is an infection severe enough to require a root canal.  Serious tooth pain while eating or when putting pressure on the tooth is a big sign of a serious infection. Additionally when the tooth pain lingers, or when sensitivity to hot or cold remains after the hot or cold thing is removed can be a major single.  More subtle signs include a small, pimple-like bump forming on the gums near the area of tooth pain, and a darkening of the tooth. Also, be mindful of swelling of the gums around the area with the most pain.

What can I be expected to pay?

The cost of a root canal procedure is largely dependent on your insurance coverage, but on average the cost of a root canal in the United States is around $350 for an incisor and at least $520 for a molar.  Factors such as the severity of the infection, the kind of dental professional you are seeing and even the location can all play into the final end price. However, a root canal is many times less expensive than getting a tooth removed and replaced with a dental implant

How does a Root Canal happen?

Root canals have a number of steps during the dental procedure that involves, basically, removing the infected material from the tooth (the tooth pulp) and then sealing the tooth to prevent any more future tooth pain. Here’s what a root canal generally looks like:
  1. First, your dentist will take an x-ray to see the extent of the infection. This will allow them to know where the infection is present in the root.
  2. Local anesthesia is then applied to the area to numb the pain and prevent tooth pain while the procedure is occurring. You will receive the local anesthesia and a rubber dam, which is used to keep the area dry during the procedure.
  3. Your dentist or endodontist will then drill a small access hole into the tooth and use specialized tools to remove the damaged nerve and pulp tissue. 
  4. After the infected material has been completely removed, the dentist will then seal the tooth that same day or put a temporary filling to protect you from further root canal pain until a custom crown has been created. They seal to the tooth by placing a rubber compound into the cleaned tooth in place of the removed material. A filling is then placed over the access hole. 
  5. After the crown, filling, or other kinds of tooth restoration has been set, you should be relieved of tooth pain. Sometimes the dentist will leave the tooth open to drain any additional material out of the tooth or put a temporary filling to help with this. Most people compare a root canal to getting a cavity filled, a relatively painless procedure. 

How to care for your teeth after the procedure?

Generally, the next appointment will involve getting a crown fitted, which is made from a special composite filling that is placed in the center of the tooth. Teeth that have undergone a root canal are almost always capped with a crown to protect the remains of the tooth and to guard against future tooth pain.  You may continue to experience some tooth pain and sensitivity after the procedure. Be sure to maintain a regular dental regimen to help minimize the chance of further infection. If you have more questions or want to arrange an appointment call Golden Smiles Dental in Rancho Cucamonga, CA at (909) 481-8990 today.