The word “root canal” sounds scary and most people don’t know what to expect at their first root canal.

In the field of dentistry, the root canal is a procedure that has a bad reputation. Even though over 15 million root canals are performed each year, this dental procedure is perhaps the one that scares most people.

If you’ve been told you need a root canal, you may be a little nervous about what to expect. And it may be tempting to delay the procedure.

A root canal doesn’t hurt, and it’s not as scary as you think. It’s a simple process to relieve your pain and save your smile.

What is a Root Canal?

Root canals are the process of removing infected pulp from teeth.

A root canal is also known as endodontic therapy or pulp canal in the dentistry world. It’s a dental procedure that removes bacteria from an infected tooth root to prevent further infection.

There is a soft tissue called the pulp under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue and creates the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development.

Due to unhealthy dental habits and improper dental care, sometimes bacteria can find its way to the pulp and leads to infection. The infection can be highly painful and if not treated in time and could lead to serious dental problems.

Unhealthy oral habits can lead to teeth root infection.

What Can Cause Pulp Canal Infections? 

You may ask, how does bacteria pass through the hard surface of the teeth and reach this pulp area?

There are lots of factors that can cause root canal infections, such as:

  • Unhealthy Oral HealthA tooth can be vulnerable to breakdown and deep decay if not properly cleaned, allowing bacteria to seep into the root of the tooth infecting the pulp.
  • Cracked or Broken TeethEveryday incidents like falls, trauma, teeth grinding, and motor accidents can cause fissures and cracks in a tooth. The cracks expose the pulp to bacteria that were previously unable to penetrate the outer layers of the tooth, the enamel, and dentin.

Cracked teeth is one of the major causes of root canal infection.

  • Permanent Restoration DelaySometimes when a patient delays the placement of the crown or permanent restoration, bacteria can find its way to the root.
  • CavityThe treatment after a cavity can also lead to new root infection.

A cavity is another reason for a root infection.

Signs You Need Endodontic Therapy

Root canals are located in very complicated areas of the mouth. Most of the time the infection caused by bacteria stays undetected until it starts showing real signs.

Here are some signs of pulp infections you may want to look for if you suspect you have a root infection.

  • Pain 

Pain is the most common sign of root infection. Usually, the pain intensifies when you put pressure on the affected tooth. It’s also important to note that root infection might not be the only cause of pain. Tooth pain can occur due to any reason, such as gum diseases, cavities, damaged filling, and more.

Regardless of what is causing the pain, it’s a good idea to see your dentist if you have tooth pain. Early diagnosis can help you figure out if you need endodontic treatment or other dental procedures.

  • Sensitivity to Hot and Cold  

If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity when you eat hot or cold food and drinks, it might be due to a tooth infection. Tooth sensitivity is associated with a dull ache or sharp pain.

If the sensitivity lingers for an extended time, even when you stop eating and drinking, you may need a root canal treatment.

  • Darkening

An infection in the pulp can cause your tooth to become brown and yellowish, giving your teeth a darker look from the outside. Tooth pulps can die when there’s an inadequate blood supply, thus signaling a possible need for endodontic therapy.

Although tooth discoloration can have other causes, it’s always a good idea to see your dentist if you notice that a tooth is changing color.

Darkening is a sign of pulp infection.

  • Gum Swelling

Gum swelling can be caused by many factors including gum inflammation, cavity, or damaged teeth. But there is also a high chance that a root infection is causing the gum to swell.

Root infection swelling is caused by acidic waste products of dead pulp tissues, which may lead to swelling (edema) outside the root tip area.

Depending on how severe or mild the infection is, the swelling may come and go, and may be tender or painful to touch.

  • Injured Tooth 

You might also need root canal treatments if you have an injured tooth. A tooth that is cracked or chipped can let bacteria into the pulp area and cause infection.

Even if your injured tooth is not cracked, you might still need endodontic therapy because the injured tooth can damage the nerve, causing inflammation, pain, and sensitivity.

A broken tooth can create an entry portal for bacteria to the pulp.

  • Tooth Mobility 

Tooth mobility can be defined as “the degree of looseness of a tooth.” If you experience any loose teeth, a root canal can help keep your teeth in place.

  • Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can form inside the teeth, in the gums, or in the bone that holds the teeth in place. A dental abscess can cause severe unease and bad breath and is visible via an enlarged or persistent red bump or pimple on the gum.

The best way to treat dental abscesses is the root canal. Your dentist will drain the painful abscess and clean out the bacteria to alleviate the pain.

  • Chronic Bad Breath

Bad breath is often associated with a pulp canal infection and dental abscesses. If you notice persistent bad breath despite brushing, flossing, and using dental washes, there is possibly an infection present, and it needs to be handled with endodontic therapy procedures.

7 Benefits of Getting an Endodontic Treatment

Endodontic therapy offers long-term benefits that can greatly improve a person’s oral health and overall quality of life.

A root canal can give you that confident smile.

  1. Virtually Pain-Free Procedure – Endodontic therapy has a bad reputation due to the pain involved, but in reality, endodontic treatments are virtually a pain-free procedure. With the use of modern techniques and anesthesia, patients won’t experience as much pain as compared to extractions.
  2. Efficient & Cost-EffectiveCost is a driving factor for most patients who’re looking for a dental procedure. The best part about a root canal is its efficient, cost-effective and most dental insurance plans will cover it.
  3. Boosts AestheticsAnyone who undergoes endodontic treatment will need a crown to cover the damaged part. And what’s best about the crown is, it not only functions like natural teeth, but they look great too.
  4. Prevent Spread of Infection – Another great thing about endodontic therapy is it prevents the spread of infection to other teeth. Just like any other infection, tooth infections also spread when not treated in time. With the help of endodontic therapy, you not only eliminate the bacteria but also save your other healthy teeth.
  5. Prevent Tooth LossYou might need to completely remove a tooth if the infection gets worse and is not treated in time. The only way to keep your teeth healthy is to go for a periodic dental checkup and have a root canal if necessary.
  6. Preserve Jawbone – Endodontic therapy can help prevent jawbone deterioration and loss of density.
  7. Boosts Oral and Overall HealthEndodontic therapy prevents you from diseases associated with poor oral health, such as diabetes, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, dementia, heart disease, and other health conditions.

What Happens if You Don’t Get a Root Canal When Needed?

As you read in the benefits section, endodontic therapy can help preserve your teeth, give you that confident smile and improve your overall health. But, what happens if you disregard the root canal infection and leave it unattended?

Canal infection if left untreated can cause major problem to surrounding teeth.

All the benefits that you read will turn against you. Meaning,

  • The pain that you experience from the infection will persist and worsen.
  • The infection could spread and infect other healthy teeth causing a health emergency.
  • You won’t enjoy eating or drinking hot or cold foods.
  • You could lose your natural teeth if you reach a point where an extraction is your only option.
  • Your teeth look discolored and untidy.
  • And, leaving the infection unattended might be an invitation to other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory infections, and more.

Types of Endodontic Therapy 

There are a few different types of root canal treatments that can be done depending on your individual case. All have a similar goal in mind—to save your teeth and keep decay and bacteria from further affecting it.

Here are a few different types of endodontic therapy to know about!

Nonsurgical Endodontic Treatment

Nonsurgical endodontic treatment is a type of treatment where inner nerve tissue is removed and the inner chamber is sealed. This type of treatment is common among patients whose teeth have experienced extensive decay that can’t be fixed with fillings.

During a non-surgical root canal procedure, drilling is done farther down than a normal filling. Drilling farther helps access the pulp canal and makes it easy to clean.

Nonsurgical endodontic treatment is the most common root canal procedure.

Apicoectomy

Apicoectomy treatment is also considered a microsurgical procedure. In case, a non-surgical root canal procedure is unsuccessful, an apicoectomy treatment is adopted.

In an apicoectomy procedure, the very tip of a tooth’s root is removed and filled with the material to seal the canal.

Apicoectomy canal treatment is only recommended if nonsurgical endodontic treatment fails.

Pulpotomy and Pulpectomy

Pulpotomy and pulpectomy are types of root canal procedures recommended only for children. Though both pulpotomy and pulpectomy are used to save a child’s natural tooth, they have one difference.

Pulpectomy procedure is used when a child has an extensive tooth infection or decay. In this procedure, all the infected pulp is removed and replaced with a filler material.

Whereas in a pulpotomy procedure they don’t use filler material. Once the affected pulp of the tooth’s chamber is removed, the healthy pulp is left to grow in your child’s tooth roots.

Pulpotomy and pulpectomy canal treatment is only for children.

How are Root Canals Performed? 

Like any other dental procedure, the endodontic treatment follows specific steps.

Step 1

Performing Dental X-Rays: The dentist will take X-rays of your teeth and spot the affected area.

Step 2

Anesthesia: Once the affected area is spotted, a patient will be given local anesthesia. Thorough mouth cleaning will also be done at this stage.

Step 3

Removing the pulp: As the anesthesia starts to kick in, the dentist will make a small hole on the surface of the tooth. With the help of dental equipment, the dead pulp tissue is removed with very small files.

Step 4

Treating the Opening: Once the bacteria and dead pulp are removed, the dentist will medicate the internal tooth to kill any remaining bacteria to prevent future reinfection.

Step 5

Sealing the Tooth/Temporary Filling: Once the pulp is removed and bacteria is removed, it’s time for filling and sealing the opening.

Depending on the infection and the location of a tooth, patients are either given a temporary filling or a permanent filling. Note that a temporary filling should be replaced with a permanent one at the given date your dentist assigns you.

Once the filling is complete, a crown is placed to protect the teeth and root.

Step 6

Restoring the Tooth: Restoring teeth is the next step for patients who have a temporary filling. At this stage, temporary fillings are removed and replaced with permanent fillings.

In many cases, an artificial crown will replace the tip of your tooth.

Endodontic treatment follows a procedure that only a professional can handle.

Tips For Preventing Pulp Canal Infections 

Once you have your pulp canal infection treated, it’s important to take care of it to prevent any infection in the future. Here are tips for preventing further infections and taking care of your treated teeth.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day.

Brushing your teeth twice a day prevents root canal infections.

  • Use a gentle antiseptic mouthwash.
  • Restore your teeth permanently as soon as possible.
  • Get dental cleaning at least twice a year.
  • See your dentist right away if you notice any early signs of infection.

FAQs About Root Canals

There is no evidence that a root canal can cause cancer. In fact, it is the only way to remove an infected tooth that could spread and cause serious disease or illness. All claims that endodontic therapy cause cancer or other illnesses are complete myths.

After endodontic therapy, make sure to follow all of your endodontist’s instructions, which most often include avoiding hard or especially chewy foods, brushing twice a day, and being very cautious around the area where the endodontic procedure was completed.

The most common procedures and typical amounts charged by dentists are:

Root Canal – Front Tooth (approximately $620 – $1,100 Out-of-Network)

Root Canal – Premolar (approximately $720- $$1,300 Out-of-Network)

Root Canal – Molar (approximately $890 – $1,500 Out-of-Network).

Needing a crown depends highly on the location of the tooth in the mouth—teeth towards the back of the mouth like molars and premolars are needed more for chewing, and generally require crowns, where incisors or canines which aren’t needed for chewing don’t always require crowns.

With proper care, a pulp canal filling can last a lifetime. Make it a point to brush twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste, floss your teeth once a day, and see your dentist regularly to make sure your teeth are strong and healthy.

For the first few days after the therapy, some patients experience sensitivity, swelling, or inflammation, while others experience an uneven bite or a reaction to the medication provided by the endodontist. Regardless of symptoms, a follow-up appointment is almost always needed.

A Root Canal Can Save Your Smile

Typically, our body is highly efficient in combating infections. However, when the body can’t deploy antibodies to the tooth, the pulp canal can get infected.

Chances are that the nerves inside the tooth will die. If the dead nerve is not treated in time, it will accommodate the bacteria that cause infection.

In some situations, the dentist may have to remove the dead tooth or conduct an endodontic treatment to eliminate the dead pulp and treat the infection.

If you experience any signs that lead you to believe you may be suffering from needing a root canal, call your dentist for treatment to prevent further complications or tooth loss.

A small dental issue could end up leading to other health problems and it is not worth the risk. Enduring a root canal for an hour is going to be much better than ending up in the emergency room. Contact us book an appointment.