For some, the very idea of a root canal is anxiety-provoking. However, what if we told you that root canal therapy is an effective, comfortable, and safe procedure? That it’s performed on millions of people every year? That it can help save your teeth, minimize pain, and restore a confident smile?
It’s true: root canal therapy, despite some common myths and misconceptions, is a powerful and effective procedure that allows people to regain control of their oral health. Let’s take a closer look into this popular treatment. What does it treat? Why would it be necessary? What’s the procedure like, and approximately how much will it cost?
Tooth Structure & Pulp: Getting to the Root of the Problem
To understand root canal therapy, we first need a basic comprehension of the root canal itself — which actually refers to a specific and important structure inside your tooth. The root canal contains the pulp of your teeth and is surrounded by a few protective layers. First, your dentin, a hard substance that forms the bulk of your teeth. The outermost layer of your teeth, the part you can see, is called your enamel. Both your enamel and your dentin work together to protect the inside of the root canal: the pulp.
What is Pulp?
As opposed to the brittle enamel and the hard dentin, your pulp is a soft tissue packed with blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Contained within the root canal, it extends deep into your gums and jaw bone. Throughout your tooth’s development, the pulp’s rich blood vessels provide nourishment to the growing tooth. After your tooth is already developed, it no longer requires the pulp to remain nourished.
How Does the Pulp Get Damaged?
In some cases, the sensitive pulp becomes exposed to bacteria and becomes infected. Though this is usually prevented by your protective layers of enamel and dentin, there are some situations which compromise the pulp:
- Decay. If you have serious cavities or tooth decay, this can destroy the outer layers of your teeth and allow bacteria to get into the sensitive pulp area.
- Trauma. In some cases, repetitive trauma like tooth grinding can wear the teeth away to the extent that the pulp is exposed.
- Injury. For some, an injury or a fracture to the tooth will expose the pulp to the outside world.
- Dental procedures. Additionally, repeated dental procedures on the same tooth can lead to irritation of the pulp.
When this happens, the pulp can become infected or inflamed, leading to serious pain and complications. At this point, you might want to consider root canal therapy.
Why Would I Need Root Canal Therapy?
When your pulp is exposed and infected due to trauma, injury, or decay, it can present a dangerous, uncomfortable, and painful situation. If your pulp becomes infected, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Pain and tenderness around your tooth, jaw, and face
- Extreme sensitivity to heat or cold
- Pain and tenderness while chewing
- Swelling in your surrounding lymph nodes and gum tissue.
In addition to pain and discomfort, the infected pulp can lead to a range of serious complications. For example, you will be prone to developing an abscess in the infected tooth. In time, untreated abscesses in the gum can spread to your jaw, head, and neck. When the infection spreads to the bone and surrounding nerves, it can cause so much damage that you may lose your tooth entirely. These infections are serious and in some cases life-threatening, so they require immediate dental attention.
By removing the infected pulp, root canal therapy prevents the infection from spreading and reduces your pain and other symptoms. In addition, root canal therapy removes only the pulp of the tooth, leaving the rest of the tooth. This prevents you from having to go through the pain and inconvenience of tooth extraction.
What is Root Canal Therapy — And What Can I Expect?
In root canal therapy, your dentist removes your tooth’s infected pulp, disinfects and seals the canal, and seals your tooth against further infection. Best of all, it reduces your pain and saves your tooth from extraction.
Let’s take a closer look at what the procedure would entail:
- Diagnosis. Your dentist uses X-Rays to make sure that root canal therapy is the correct choice for you.
- Anesthesia. During the procedure, you won’t feel any pain because your dentist will apply anesthetic to numb the area.
- Opening. Next, your dentist will make a small opening in the crown, or top of your tooth, so that they can reach the inside layers.
- Cleaning & Shaping. Once the tooth is opened, your dentist uses specialized instruments to completely remove the infected pulp from the root canal. Next, they’ll thoroughly clean and disinfect the area to ensure no bacteria or infected tissue remains. Finally, your dentist will carefully shape the inside of the pulp chamber to prepare it for a filling.
- Filling. Because the root canals cannot be left empty, your dentist then fills the area with a special rubber-like material.
- Closing. To close up the opening in the tooth, your dentist will usually place a temporary filling.
- Permanent crown or filling. Once you dental team is sure that all the infected pulp has been drained, they’ll place a crown or permanent filling on the tooth. Shortly thereafter, your tooth will go back to functioning as normal.
What to Expect: Aftercare
You will probably experience some mild pain for a few days as you heal, manageable with over the counter pain medicine like Advil and Tylenol. During the first few days, look for any swelling that occurs — and report it to your dentist. Be gentle with chewing and especially careful with the tooth before you have a crown or permanent filling placed. It’s important to have a crown placed as a final step because your tooth will be slightly more brittle now.
What is the Cost of a Root Canal?
When it comes to root canal treatment, the cost is going to vary considerably based on your individual case. The average root canal procedure costs $1,000-$2,000. Additionally, you should factor in paying for the filling or crown that will accompany the procedure. Fillings can cost between $90-$300, while crowns can cost $500-$3,000.
However, many dental plans will cover a significant portion of the costs of a root canal. You can also talk to your dentist about financing plans — and remember, every situation is unique.
Root Canal Therapy Near Oceanside, CA
Root canal therapy is an excellent way to reduce pain, heal an infection, and save your teeth — and in the hands of compassionate specialists, it doesn’t have to be anxiety-provoking. At North Coast Dental Excellence, we specialize in root canal therapy. It’s our goal to make every procedure as safe, comfortable, and stress-free as possible. Please contact us for more information, or to schedule an appointment.