Most people cringe at the phrase “root canal” but this simple procedure’s bad reputation really isn’t warranted, as it’s quite harmless. As technology has evolved, procedures that were once a hassle are now much easier and less painful for everyone. Root canals often make patients nervous, but this article will help make a potential root canal far less stressful. Keep reading to learn what to expect and to get answers to all your pressing root canal questions.
What is a root canal?
This procedure saves and repairs damaged teeth by cleaning and sanitizing the canals in the root of the tooth. This procedure is an endodontic treatment and can be performed by a dentist or endodontist – a dentist that specializes in the study and treatment of the tooth’s pulp. Together, the nerves and blood vessels of a tooth are called the pulp. A root canal is necessary when the pulp of a tooth is damaged or infected. The pulp can get infected or damaged from various causes whether that is a deeply rooted cavity or a cracked or traumatized tooth.
Why do you need a root canal?
A root canal is necessary when there is damage to the pulp of a tooth, but many patients often do not even want to consider a root canal. The thing about root canals is, when you need one, you need one. There is no other procedure that can repair and save a tooth, as well as diminish your tooth pain like a root canal can. A root canal procedure is actually very beneficial because it preserves your natural teeth, unlike an extraction or implant. If you have an infected pulp, you need this dental procedure to remove the infected area and to maintain your oral health.
Root canal pain and symptoms
Since a root canal is the resulting process of an infected pulp, it is more than likely that you will be feeling the symptoms of the infection, not the need for a root canal. Since there can be similar pain for many oral health problems, having any of these symptoms does not constitute the need for a root canal, you could just need a quick filling. However, if you do have any one or more of these symptoms, please contact your dentist immediately to get your oral health evaluated.
- Pain or sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures
- Severe pain or pressure when chewing
- A recurring or consistent pimple-like dot on the gums
- Consistently tender or swollen gums
- A tooth that has become discolored from its natural state, often yellow or gray
How do you know when you need a root canal?
When the decay or damage of a tooth goes untreated and it penetrates deeper into the tooth, the root of the tooth can become inflamed and infected. When the pulp or root of a tooth becomes inflamed or infected, a root canal is needed to relieve pain. Some ways to know when you need a root canal include tooth pain when chewing, lingering sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, swelling or tenderness in the gums and the darkening of the tooth.
On the other hand, some people do not experience any symptoms. When a patient needs a root canal but does not experience any symptoms, an x-ray from the dentist is typically the only way to know. By going to the dentist regularly, about every 6 months, your dentist will be able to identify any issues and save you the pain of prolonging the infection.
What happens in a root canal procedure?
Root canals will seem less intimidating if you know what to expect going into the procedure. Root canals are usually done within a 30-90 minute visit but can take longer or multiple visits depending on the severity of your infection. At the beginning of the appointment, you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area of your mouth. The numbness will allow for limited pain, so the actual procedure should not be that uncomfortable. To start the actual process, an opening is made in the tooth to have access to the infected pulp, this happens from the top of the tooth, down to the infection. Once the dentist is able, the infected pulp will be removed. The area where the infection was and the surrounding areas will be cleaned with a disinfectant to prepare to fill the canals. The canals are then filled with a material that helps keep the area clean and infection-free. Lastly, the natural tooth is protected by a seal until it can be crowned. With dental technology advancements, root canals have basically become a breeze and patients should not be fearful of the procedure.
How to manage root canal pain
The pain is often what scares patients about root canals. Fear not, with modern dentistry the tales of root canal pain are often overblown. No, root canals are not enjoyable, but you will not be in excruciating pain as you may have heard. Any pain you experience will likely be caused by the infection, not the procedure. As previously mentioned, a local anesthetic will limit the pain during the procedure, although it is possible to experience some pressure as you would during a filling. After the root canal, any pain you have should subside after 12 to 24 hours and your dentist or endodontist will recommend a pain medication to help. If you experience any unbearable pain during or after your root canal, inform your dentist so you can get the help you need.
What if I don’t get a root canal?
Infected teeth do not have the ability to go away on their own or with antibiotics and the infection will only get worse unless a root canal or extraction is performed. If you do not get a root canal when it is needed, the infection can spread causing serious, even life-threatening problems. The longer someone waits to get a root canal, the less likely a dentist will be able to save the tooth with a root canal making an extraction the only option. Also, the infection can spread to other areas of the mouth and jaw causing other medical or dental problems. The infection can become abscessed which leads to detrimental complications like sepsis, stroke or a heart attack. To prevent these risks, it is important to get a root canal as soon as your dentist tells you to.
How much are root canals without insurance?
The cost of a root canal depends on a few factors like dental office location, which tooth needs a root canal and how severe the damage is. According to FAIR Health, the national average prices for a root canal without insurance on a front tooth, bicuspid and molar are $762, $879, and $1,111 respectively.
At Fortson Dentistry, we don’t want root canal fears to hold your oral health back! Repair and preserve your beautiful smile and give us a call today to book an appointment.
Dr. Cory Fortson, DDS began his educational journey by earning a BS in Nutritional Science from Michigan State University. He is a 2014 graduate of The University of Detroit Dental School and a third generation dentist who is proud to provide excellent dental care to the Lathrup Village community.
With his dedication to excellence and continued growth, Dr. Fortson has completed extensive continuing education courses in orthodontics (braces and Invisalign), endodontics (root canal therapy), and cosmetic dentistry. He always strives to create a comfortable atmosphere for his patients while restoring their smiles. Dr. Fortson’s goal is to take the stress out of dental visits by meeting all his patients’ dental needs while offering the most up to date painless treatment options to deliver a beautiful smile.