Did you know that more than 15 million root canals are performed each year? Although a lot of patients annually undergo this procedure, there are some misconceptions about it.
If a dental professional tells you that you need a root canal, don’t be afraid! This guide will cover what the process entails, how to find a dentist, and FAQs. Keep reading to learn more.
Table of Contents
What Are Root Canals?
Root canals, also known as endodontic therapy, are common dental procedures used to treat an infection caused by an injury to the tooth or an bacteria.
A general dentist or endodontist can perform a root canal to save a tooth from extraction. They will remove the infected bacteria and nerve tissue from inside the tooth.
Tooth extraction is an alternative to a root canal, but this is not always the better option. A root canal offers a chance to save your natural tooth.
Why You Might Need a Root Canal
Individuals that have deep decay in the inner layer of their tooth likely need a root canal.
A tooth has three parts: dentin, enamel, and pulp. The pulp of the tooth has a canal that allows the tooth to communicate with the body through blood vessels and fibers.
You’ll need a root canal if the pulp is impacted by tooth decay or trauma. An X-ray can determine if you have a pulp infection and a root canal is necessary.
These are some of the symptoms you can experience when you need a root canal:
- Pain when chewing
- Swollen gums, jaw, or cheek
- Discharge from tooth
- Tooth discoloration
- Sensitivity to hot or cold drinks or food
- Loose tooth
The infected tooth won’t heal without treatment. Symptoms might disappear on their own, but that doesn’t mean the tooth has healed. Disappearing symptoms indicate that the nerves within the pulp are dead.
If left untreated, the infection will erode the bone around the tooth and spread to adjacent teeth months later.
An infection might be painless even if the nerves in the pulp aren’t dead. It’s important to regularly visit the dentist to catch problems you might otherwise not notice.
What to Expect From a Root Canal Procedure
A root canal procedure takes one or more appointments depending on how severe the infection is.
A dentist will get into the tooth and clean out the nerve with medications. Medication deadens the fibers so that infectious bacteria can be removed.
The procedure involves minimal pressure and drilling. Once the dentist administers the anesthesia, you likely won’t feel any pain.
Administering local anesthesia is the first step of the treatment process. The dentist will drill a small opening in your tooth.
If the trauma is on a front tooth, the hole is made in the back. If the procedure is completed on a back tooth, the hole happens on the top of the tooth.
The dentist will remove the infected pulp, clean the canals, and apply medicine. The medicine will remain on the tooth until the next visit.
The dentist seals the canals and fills the pulp chamber. If the tooth infection is severe, you’ll be back for another visit to complete the procedure.
During the second appointment, the dentist will disinfect the tooth and place a filling or crown.
What to Expect After a Root Canal
Following a root canal procedure, the infected tooth will heal almost instantly. Many patients leave the dentist’s office with no pain at all.
If you have a severe infection and swelling before the procedure, a dentist will recommend pain-relieving medication for you to take for a few days.
While most patients don’t experience pain after the procedure, some deal with mild symptoms.
When a root canal is performed on a back tooth, you will need a crown to support the weakened tooth. If you fail to have a tooth crowned, it will split in the future. If this happens, you will need a tooth extraction.
Can a General Dentist Perform Root Canals?
We’ve noted that a general dentist can complete a root canal, but let’s dive deeper into this. After reading the description of a root canal, you might think it’s a job for an oral surgeon.
In most cases, endodontists handle root canals. These professionals go through more years of training to learn about inner tooth operations.
A general dentist can choose to complete simpler root canal procedures themselves. Whether or not they do this will depend on how comfortable they are completing root canals among other factors.
A general dentist typically completes root canals if the tooth is a canine, incisor, or lower premolar. These teeth have only one large root so the procedure requires less precision and maneuvering.
They may also choose to complete a root canal if the tooth is not deeply infected.
Check with your dentist to see if they offer root canals. If not, they might be able to recommend you to an endodontist within their network.
Seeing a general dentist for a root canal is more convenient. If you have dental anxiety, you will be treated by a professional that you are already familiar with.
General Dentist vs. Endodontist
All endodontists are dentists, but only a few dentists are endodontists. Endodontists are specialists because they complete two or more additional years of training after dental school.
To become an endodontist, a person must complete dental school and study through an advanced specialty program in endodontics. The training focuses on learning about dental pulp diseases and how to treat them.
By limiting their practice to become an endodontist, these professionals focus exclusively on treating dental pulp.
These dental experts will complete an average of 25 root canals per week. General dentists will typically complete two in a week.
An endodontist won’t clean teeth or place fillings but will diagnose and treat tooth pain. They are skilled in finding the cause of facial and oral pain that is difficult for a general dentist to diagnose.
During their training, endodontists learn about pain management. They use specialized techniques to help patients stay comfortable during treatment.
An endodontist can administer numbing medications and are especially helpful for patients that deal with problems staying numb throughout a procedure.
How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?
The cost of root canal treatment depends on various factors. For example, the specific tooth that is infected has a major influence on the price of the procedure.
These are the typical average costs for root canals:
- Premolar: $700 to $1,300
- Molar: $900 to $1,500
- Front Tooth: $600 to $1,100
If you have dental insurance, your plan can cover up to 80% of the cost if you meet your deductible.
The dental office you visit will also affect the cost. A general dentist is likely to charge less than an endodontist. Complicated procedures, those performed on molars, should be completed by an endodontist.
Can You Skip a Root Canal?
If a local family dentist office tells you that you need a root canal, listen! Avoiding a root canal procedure is never advisable.
You can address the issue of your infected tooth now with a simple root canal, or you can wait, deal with the pain, and end up needing a tooth extraction.
Ignoring a root canal can cause tooth abscess or an infection that spreads to other oral areas like sinuses or the jaw bone.
Eventually, your tooth infection will get worse and lead to an unhealthy situation.
If you are feeling nervous about a root canal, ask your dentist for tips on easing dental anxiety. You will be medicated which can help your nerves, but you can also use noise-canceling headphones, stress balls, and eye masks.
How to Choose a Dentist or Endodontist
If you don’t currently go to a general dentist or know of an endodontist, learning how to choose the right professional for a root canal is helpful.
Here are some tips to follow that can help you locate a qualified dental practitioner for your root canal procedure:
Whether you want to work with a general dentist or endodontist, their reputation matters. When trying to find a professional to carry out a root canal, pay attention to patient reviews.
You can consolidate your options by looking into the performance history of the dental professional. Testimonials are a great way to gain insight from real patients that have experienced a root canal with a certain dentist.
A respected dentist will have a website that includes their educational background, relevant certifications, skills, and other important office information.
By looking into the details of a dentist or endodontist, you can decide if they have a good reputation that fits your needs.
The best way to see if you are comfortable with a dentist or endodontist is by visiting their office. A friendly team will elevate your experience, health, and well-being.
As well as seeing how comfortable you are, note whether or not the facility has the latest dental equipment. An office furnished with up-to-date technology ensures that you will receive advanced care.
When you choose an endodontist, you know they have the credentials needed to complete a successful root canal, no matter how severe a tooth infection is. Endodontists always complete additional studies after finishing dental school.
If you are going to a general dentist for a root canal, inquire about their abilities and experience. Only a handful of dental practitioners are qualified to complete a root canal.
Ask for these credentials or visit a general dentist’s website to see if these credentials are on display. You can opt for a dental consultation where you can ask the practitioner about their skill level with root canals and other procedures.
When you have an infected tooth nerve that needs treatment, selecting a dental professional near you will be beneficial.
Dental care should never be ignored, whether you need a root canal or not. You should regularly visit the dentist to avoid any oral complications.
A root canal involves follow-up visits so it’s more convenient for your dentist to be nearby.
FAQs About Root Canals
There are a lot of questions patients have about root canals. Although this article should have answered most of your inquiries, we’ve created this section for rapid-fire answers about the procedure.
What Is a Root Canal?
In short, a root canal is the removal of infected dental pulp through the root canal system within a tooth. A root canal is also referred to as endodontic therapy.
Who Needs a Root Canal?
There are several reasons a dentist may recommend a root canal, including:
- Tooth infection that reaches the nerves
- Excessive tooth decay or deep cavities
- Broken tooth
- Badly cracked tooth
- Repeated fillings of an affected tooth
X-rays can uncover whether or not you need a root canal.
Is a Root Canal Painful?
The idea that a root canal is painful is a common misconception. Having a root canal done is similar to having a cavity filled.
The only pain you’ll experience is from the anesthesia needle. After anesthesia is administered, you won’t feel any pain during the procedure.
Visit the Dentist to Take Care of Your Oral Health
Root canals are common dental procedures required when you have an infected tooth. If you forgo a root canal when the dental pulp of your tooth is filled with bacteria, more problems can arise.
Opt for a root canal to prevent tooth extraction and tooth infection from spreading. Use this guide to know what to expect and to help you find a dental professional.
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