Teeth can become severely damaged due to problems such as cavities, cracks, and infections such as gingivitis. When your teeth are severely damaged, your dentist may recommend that they get removed. However, there is a kind of treatment that can save your badly damaged tooth or teeth from being extracted. This procedure is known as a root canal.
This article provides essential information that you need to know about root canals. The points addressed include the meaning of the root canal, why a tooth may need to get treated using the procedure, the causes of tooth nerve and pulp damage, and what a root canal entails. You will also get information about the complications associated with root canals, the success rate of root canals, and the cost of the root canal and how you can reduce it.
- What does a root canal mean?
A root canal is a tooth treatment procedure used to repair and save a tooth that has had severe damage due to an infection or decay. The term ‘root canal’ refers to the natural hollow area within the center of the tooth. The root canal has a soft area known as the pulp or pulp chamber, which also contains the tooth’s nerves.
The root canal process helps to get rid of bacteria from the root of a tooth that has an infection, or that is decaying. It helps to stop the tooth from being reinfected and to save the natural tooth. When you undergo a root canal, the dentist will remove the swollen or infected pulp and nerves, carefully clean and disinfect the root canal, fill the area, and seal it.
A tooth’s nerves can be removed as part of the root canal process because they are not of critical importance to the health and functioning of the tooth after the tooth has grown through the nerves.
- Why does a root canal have to be done?
When the pulp or nerve tissue of a tooth gets damaged as a result of an infection, tooth decay, or a cracked tooth, it collapses, and bacteria start to increase within the pulp area. The accumulation of bacteria and other decayed materials can cause tooth abscess or further infection. It can lead to other problems such as loss at the root’s tip, inflammation that can spread to other areas such as the neck, face and head, and drainage issues to holes that occur through the side of the tooth.
All the problems mentioned above can be avoided by removing the pulp and nerves in the root canal, cleaning and disinfecting the area, and then sealing it, which is the essence of the root canal process.
- What damages a tooth’s nerves and pulp?
The nerves and pulp of a tooth can become infected, irritated, and swollen as a result of repeated dental processes on a tooth, deep tooth decay, a chip or crack in the tooth, or any trauma that affects the tooth.
- Signs that you need a root canal
The American Association of Endodontists notes that the most common sign that may indicate that you need a root canal is a persistent toothache. You may experience mild to severe pain, which may subside or increase at different times of the day. The pain may also increase when you bite something.
Other signs that you need a root canal include prolonged tooth sensitivity to cold or hot food items and liquids, tenderness, and swelling of gums that are adjacent to the affected tooth, and discoloration or darkening of the tooth.
- What does a root canal entail?
A root canal procedure requires one or several visits to a dentist or an endodontist (a highly skilled dental specialist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of tooth pain as well as performing root canal procedures). The selection of which type of specialist to rely on depends on the level of complexity of the root canal procedure required on your tooth and the dental practitioner’s degree of comfort in carrying out the process. It would be best if you discussed with your dentist regarding who may be best suited to work on your case.
Before a dentist recommends a root canal, the first step is to take an X-ray of the affected tooth or teeth to determine the cause of your problem. Once a proper examination gets done, your dentist will inform you about the next step to take.
The actual root canal process involves keeping the area to be treated free of saliva and drilling a hole in the tooth and removing the pulp, bacteria, decaying nerve tissue, and other debris. The sides of the root canal get scrubbed to get rid of all the materials mentioned above. A sodium hypochlorite solution gets used repeatedly to flush all the debris.
The dentist will seal the area or wait for about one week to check for occurrences such as infections before sealing the tooth.
- Root canal complications
While many root canals are mostly successful, some complications might arise due to:
- New infections after the procedure.
- Undetected cracks in the tooth’s root
- Inadequate or defective dental restoration – which allows bacteria to infect the area beyond the restored area, thus contaminating the root canal again.
- How successful is the root canal procedure?
Root canal procedures, as per reports, have a success rate of 95 percent. Also, most teeth repaired using the root canal procedure can last a person’s entire lifetime. Further, since root canal also involves other dental restoration procedures such as filling and fitting of crowns, it may not be easy for other people to notice that you underwent a root canal.
- Cost of a root canal and how you can reduce it
General dentists in the United States charge between $500 to $1,000 for a root canal on an incisor and between $800 and $1,500 for a molar. An endodontist in the United States will charge you a fee that is about 50 percent higher than that of a general dentist.
You can significantly reduce the cost of a root canal if you engage a dental clinic that provides dental tourism services.
A root canal is a somewhat delicate and relatively costly procedure. However, given the importance of the dental procedure regarding repairing a damaged tooth, you can avoid the high cost by visiting a dental tourism facility.