If you have a cavity or a tooth broken or cracked enough to expose the root, you'll need root canal therapy to repair it.
Many people tense up at the idea of getting a root canal, but it's a procedure that millions of Americans have every year to help save their teeth.
What is Root Canal Therapy?
Each tooth has a pulp inside known as the root that consists of blood vessels and nerves. This pulp helps the tooth grow when you're young. When the pulp gets infected because of a crack or cavity, a specially trained dentist called an endodontist needs to remove it.
Removing the pulp is known as root canal therapy.
Root canal treatment has a reputation as something painful to be avoided, but you'll receive a local anesthetic before the procedure.
People don't typically experience more discomfort during a root canal than during a filling. In fact, this painless procedure can save you from pain later if the infection progresses.
The dentist will remove the pulp while you're numb and attach a temporary crown to protect it. At a second appointment, the dentist will clean and fill the tooth.
Finally, a permanent crown will replace the temporary one, and your tooth is saved!
Do You Need Root Canal Therapy?
A dentist must diagnose your tooth as diseased or compromised before you can get root canal therapy. Some warning signs can tell you that the procedure is likely, though.
- Swollen, sensitive gums
- Dark gums or gums with small sores around the tooth
- A tooth with extreme sensitivity to cold or heat with lingering pain afterward
- The tooth is cracked or broken, or deeply chipped
- A discolored tooth
- Pain while chewing beyond hot or cold sensitivity
If you have these symptoms and leave them untreated, you could develop a painful abscess beneath the root. Discharge and pus may appear around the tooth at the gum line, or a swollen spot can appear lower on the gums.
An abscess needs immediate treatment and draining to avoid tooth loss. If you have an untreated infection, it can result in bone loss around the roots that will loosen the affected tooth.
In extreme cases, the infection can spread from the gums into surrounding areas or your bloodstream and cause a potentially life-threatening illness. You should never ignore dental pains and problems to avoid serious infections like those.
Sometimes when an infection goes untreated too long, the tooth must be extracted. An implanted tooth might require a bone graft to anchor into the jaw. Treating a problem tooth with root canal therapy before it reaches this point is much less painful and expensive.
Everyone with one of these symptoms doesn't need a root canal. Sometimes a deep cleaning can fix gum inflammation, or a filling can repair a damaged tooth. Only a dentist can determine the best course of action.
Why Get Root Canal Therapy Instead of an Extraction?
In some severe infections, an extraction might be necessary. The goal of root canal therapy is to avoid that so you can keep your teeth.
You probably don't want your front teeth extracted unless you plan to have dental implants or dentures. Though, you might wonder why you should have root canal therapy on a back tooth that doesn't show instead of having it removed.
Removing the tooth will solve the immediate problem, but it can cause others. The resulting gap will allow the surrounding teeth to shift, which can change the look of your smile, your bite, and your ability to chew food properly.
You can get an extraction and an implant after the gum has healed, but root canal therapy is the less invasive procedure.
Bridges, veneers, orthodontics, and other dental appliances make extraction the least desirable treatment. We prefer that you keep your existing teeth and not need new dental appliances.
A root canal treatment usually costs less, takes less time, and keeps your smile intact!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
We know you have more questions about root canal therapy, and we want to make sure you have the answers you need.
Is root canal treatment expensive?
Root canal therapy costs more than procedures like fillings, cleanings, or extractions. Dental insurance plans cover some of the cost, and it's less expensive in the long run than teeth that move, bite problems, and remaking dental appliances to fit when your teeth shift.
Is root canal therapy really painless?
Our team wants your treatment to be as pain-free as possible. Local sedation is enough for most people. The anesthetic makes the procedure as comfortable as any other treatment, like a filling. We can also discuss sedation dentistry with you.
Your tooth and gums will probably be sensitive for a few days after the procedure, but the root canal will be painless.
Will I need to stay home from work or school after the treatment?
No, you won't have to take time off work or school after root canal therapy. You'll be numb for a few hours from the local anesthetic. Avoid eating until the numbness wears off, and start with soft foods until you determine how comfortable you are while chewing.
How long does a root canal treatment take?
You'll need two appointments for root canal therapy. During the first appointment, the endodontist will remove the tooth's pulp. The second appointment involves cleaning the tooth and sealing it with a crown.
Each appointment takes about an hour and a half, so you'll be in the dentist's chair for about three hours on average.
Will I ever need a second root canal in the same tooth?
Not ordinarily. On rare occasions, a root canal fails because bacteria remained and caused more infection or the tooth didn't seal properly.
A second procedure would be necessary to correct this, but most people will only need one for the life of the tooth.
If You Think You Need Root Canal Treatment
Our team wants you to contact us with any dental problems as soon as possible so we can treat them early and help you keep your teeth.
If you have swollen gums, pain, swelling, discharge, or any other unusual symptoms, contact us today for an appointment with a root canal dentist.