Root Canal 101
Root Canal 101
Endodontics and the Root Canal Procedure
Do you have a sharp pain in your tooth while you are chewing or when you eat something hot or cold?
If so, you may have an infection in your pulp, which is a small bundle of nerves and blood vessels. If this happens, you may have to remove the pulp to save your tooth with a root canal treatment.
You know that root canal treatments are common and there’s a staggering amount of information on the topic. The problem is, making sense of all of that information, opinions, and research can be overwhelming, especially when you’re in pain from chewing or tooth sensitivity. So how do you get the information you need to help you make an informed decision?
Welcome to root canal 101.
Thanks to advances in endodontics, dentistry that specializes in treating the inside of the tooth, your teeth are a simple treatment away from being healthy and pain-free. The root canal procedure is astonishingly effective in eliminating pain and saving compromised teeth.
In fact, the Journal of Endodontics found that 97% of teeth were retained after treatment, while another study in the same journal reported that root canal treatment alleviated the pain of 90% of patients.
In addition to going over the cause, step-by-step procedure, and benefits of root canals, this article will examine alternative treatments such as extraction and implants, how to minimize discomfort, and the cost of a root canal.
Your inner tooth contains soft, living tissue called pulp, which is made up of bundles of nerves and blood vessels. Pulp plays a role in the formation of teeth during childhood as well as detecting temperature and pressure.
However, the pulp is sensitive and may become infected after being damaged by cavities, decay, chips, cracks, impact, or repeated treatments on the same tooth.
This infection is the culprit behind symptoms like toothaches and sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. Other indicators include darkened teeth, swollen gums, or pimples on the gums.
Sometimes infected teeth aren’t accompanied by any symptoms. In these cases, a dental exam can still detect infection. Consequently, regular examinations are recommended for the best defence.
Unfortunately, root canal infection poses even greater threats:
If an infected root canal goes untreated, the pain may worsen or even go away if all of your nerves die. Eventually, the infection spreads to the gums and jaw if untreated, and may form a painful pocket of pus in the root of the tooth, known as an abscess.
Abscessed teeth often require immediate root canal surgery because they can lead to serious medical issues if untreated. The abscess can spread to other teeth and result in tooth loss, or even infect the face and neck, which can have severe consequences:
According to a report in the Australian Dental Journal, bacteria from dental abscesses can lead to potentially fatal complications such as Ludwig’s angina, brain abscesses, sepsis, and bacterial endocarditis, in the most extreme cases.
This reality is why root canal treatment is so necessary. Fortunately, the procedure is simple, safe, and practically painless. Here’s how it works:
After numbing the gums near the infected tooth with medication, we inject local anesthetic into the affected area. For a moment, the injection may feel like a pinch-like tingle or sting, but the anesthetic will prevent any pain during the procedure. We use a small, latex dental dam to isolate the tooth from any bacteria.
We drill a small hole in your tooth. Through this opening, we clean out the infected pulp using small instruments called files. To prevent reinfection, a topical antibiotic may be used on the tooth.
We fill the root canal with bio-compatible material, such as gutta-percha, and seal it with adhesive cement. If the tooth isn’t strong enough to support the root filling, we may place a post inside the canal.
Depending on the tooth, a root canal crown may be necessary to complete the procedure.
And that’s it!
Not only is the root canal procedure simple, but it also comes with many other benefits as well:
There’s a lot of value in saving your natural tooth. It keeps your smile intact, restores chewing and biting force, and doesn’t require expensive, continuous dental procedures.
For these reasons, the American Association of Endodontists recommends root canal treatments over extraction and dental implants whenever possible.
Some assume extraction is a more comfortable process than a root canal procedure, but the American Association of Endodontists notes that patients with root canals are six times more likely to describe it as painless than people who received other treatments.
Additionally, extractions without a replacement can cause severe bite and alignment issues as teeth naturally shift to fill in the gap left behind. Considering this outcome, the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry found that extracting a tooth without a replacement had the biggest impact to a patient’s self-image.
Even though root canal procedures are the most effective and painless way to deal with infected pulp, it’s not uncommon for the tooth to feel a minimal level of pain or discomfort in the days following the treatment. You might be wondering:
“Is there any way to reduce pain after treatment?”
There are several potential remedies:
1. Over-the-Counter Medications: Ibuprofen, Advil, or Tylenol are usually enough to reduce and manage the pain and swelling around your gums.
2. Ice pack: Pressing an icepack on your cheek reduces swelling and pain. Repeat every fifteen minutes.
3. Gargling Saltwater: Saltwater eases pains from sore gums and cheeks, reduces inflammation, and kills harmful bacteria. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in warm water, and rinse it in your mouth for a minute.
4. Pillow Elevation: Elevating your pillow will prevent bleeding and throbbing from gums and nerves.
5. Avoid Hard Foods: Pressure from hard or crunchy foods may cause discomfort.
If you still experience pain after employing some of these methods, contact us.
Congratulations! You’ve made it through root canal 101. There’s only one question left:
How much does a root canal cost?
The cost will vary based on the tooth—for example, a molar root canal may cost more than your front teeth because it requires a crown. That said, the Alberta Dental Association indicates that the average cost of an uncomplicated root canal is $662.15.
Root canals are a virtually pain-free and effective solution for an infected tooth pulp, putting an end to the pain, discomfort, and risks associated with skipping treatment. Despite being a simple process, root canal procedures come with a lot of benefits, such as saving the natural tooth, and restoring painless biting and chewing. Any pain felt after treatment can be effectively managed using several methods. Ultimately, a root canal procedure is one of the best solutions for a tooth infection.
If you suspect you may need a root canal, don’t wait—book a free consultation with us by calling (780) 425-1646.