Root Canal Therapy

What is Root Canal Therapy?

Root canal therapy (endodontic treatment) is designed to help save a tooth that’s pulp has become infected or injured. Millions of people receive this type of treatment each year to help save teeth, relieve pain and improve oral health.

Beneath the enamel and dentin (outer layers) of the tooth, there is a soft tissue called the pulp. This tissue contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that helps the tooth to grow during development. If a tooth is fully developed, it can survive without the pulp. Instead, your tooth is nourished by the tissues around it, making root canal therapy an effective form of treatment.

Did you know, 41,000 root canals are performed each day?

When is a Root Canal Needed?

Root canals are recommended when a tooth that is infected or injured needs to be restored. There are a number of benefits in getting a root canal over other procedures. For example, root canal therapy:

  • Saves the natural tooth
  • Keeps the tooth's natural appearance
  • Maintains the normal biting force and sensation
  • Protects other teeth from excessive wear-and-tear and strain
  • Stops the infection from spreading to neighboring teeth

What are the Steps to a Root Canal Procedure?

There are several steps in the process of root canal treatment and it may involve more than one appointment:

  • Local anesthesia is usually given during a root canal treatment so the patient is more comfortable. To isolate the tooth, the dentist will use a dental dam, a thin sheet of latex rubber or plastic, to help keep the tooth dry during the procedure.
  • An opening is then made through the crown (top) of the tooth into the pulp chamber.
  • The pulp or remaining tissue is then removed carefully from both the pulp chamber and root canal(s). Each root canal is then cleaned and shaped so it can be filled.
  • Medication may be placed in the pulp chamber and root canal(s) to help eliminate bacteria.
  • A temporary filling may be placed in the crown opening to prevent saliva from entering the chamber and root canals, or the dentist may immediately begin the next stage of filling the root canal(s) with a permanent filling.
  • If an infection is present and has spread beyond the root(s), the dentist may prescribe antibiotics.
  • During the next stage of treatment, after placement of a latex dental dam, if a temporary filling was previously placed, it is removed. Root canals are usually filled with gutta-percha, a rubber-like material made from various tropical trees.
  • The tooth is then restored with a crown or permanent filling to strengthen and improve appearance.
  • If an endodontist performed the treatment, it may be recommended to see a general dentist for the final restoration.

Do Root Canal Hurt?

Patients are given anesthesia during root canal therapy, so it should not be any more painful than any other dental procedure. A root canal can cause mild discomfort and soreness following the procedure but should subside after a few days.

How Long Will a Restored Tooth Last?

Most teeth that have a root canal performed last at least five years. It is important that patients continue to follow the treatment plan given by their dentist years after the procedure is completed. Patients who follow their provider's treatment plan can expect a successfully restored tooth for five to ten years.

How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?

The cost of a root canal varies depending on the complexity of the problem and treatment needed. A molar can be more complex than other teeth, therefore, it may cost more. Most dental insurance policies provide some coverage for endodontic treatment. Be sure to check with your insurance carrier to confirm what is covered in your plan.

Endodontic treatment usually costs less than having a tooth extracted. When a tooth is extracted, it is typically suggested that the tooth be replaced with a bridge or implant. The additional procedures related to extraction can add up to a high cost than a root canal.

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Gary Allen, DMD, Advantage Dental Group, P.C. | James Thommes, DDS, Advantage Dental Oral Health Center Of Massachusetts, P.C.; Advantage Dental Oral Health And Vision Center Of Alabama, P.C.; Advantage Dental Oral Health Center Of Oklahoma, P.C.; Advantage Dental Oral Health Center Of Texas, P.C. | Cory White, DMD, Advantage Dental Oral Health and Vision Center Of Alabama, P.C. | John Clasen, OD, Advantage Dental Oral Health and Vision Center Of Alabama, P.C. | Neil Williams, DMD, Advantage Dental Oral Health Center Of Florida, PA