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What to Expect When You Come in for a Root Canal
You know how important it is to brush, floss, and visit the dentist for regular check-up and cleaning if you want to avoid issues like gum disease and tooth decay. However, proper dental care only goes so far. Sometimes an accident, injury, illness, or aging can lead to the need for additional intervention.
When the pulp and nerve tissue within your tooth gets damaged, leading to infection and eventually an abscess, a root canal procedure offers the opportunity to save your natural tooth. This can preserve oral function, not to mention your smile.
So what is a root canal and what can you expect during and after this procedure? We’ll explore the answer below.
What Is a Root Canal?
When the pulp and nerves within a tooth suffer infection and decay — leading to issues like inflammation, irritation, sensitivity, pain, swelling, trouble chewing, and other side effects — these structures need to be removed in order to save the tooth.
This is accomplished with a root canal procedure, in which the pulp and nerves are removed. After this, the tooth is cleaned and sealed to prevent further infection and preserve the tooth structure.
Why Do You Need a Root Canal?
When a tooth becomes damaged or decayed, resulting in a bacterial infection in the pulp and nerve tissue, an abscess can form. If this is left untreated, the pocket of pus can spread down through the roots of the tooth and into the jaw, infecting and damaging other tissue as it goes.
This can cause pain and swelling in the face and lead to bone loss in the jaw. In some cases, the abscess can even enter the bloodstream, allowing infection to spread and pockets of infection to settle in critical areas like the heart or the brain.
A root canal not only protects the integrity of your tooth by removing the pulp and nerve tissue (which you don’t need once a tooth is fully mature), but it also helps to prevent other serious health concerns.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
Before your procedure begins, your dentist or endodontist (a specialist at treating problems related to the pulp) will take X-rays to determine the extent of the infection and to explore any damage that it may have caused to the tooth and surrounding tissue and bone.
You’ll be administered a local anesthetic to prevent any pain during the root canal procedure. Often, a rubber dam will be placed around the tooth to keep the area clean and dry throughout.
Next, your dentist will drill a hole into your tooth to access and remove the decayed pulp and nerve tissue. Using specialized tools, the dentist will scrape and clean the inside of the tooth, removing every last bit of tissue and infection. The area will be irrigated with water or a sanitizing solution like sodium hypochlorite to flush away debris.
Finally, the tooth will be sealed with a filler and the access hole will be closed with a filling to protect the tooth from further harm.
The Recovery Process
It’s normal to suffer some sensitivity and swelling following a root canal. This may last for a few days as the area recovers. This discomfort is generally treatable with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen.
Cost for a Root Canal
A root canal may or may not be covered by insurance. Most often, dental insurance will cover at least a portion of this procedure, however. The cost of a root canal can be between $500 and $1,500, depending on the tooth and the damage. It may cost more if the procedure is performed by an endodontist.
There’s a common misconception that a root canal is particularly painful, but in fact, this procedure eliminates the pain associated with a tooth abscess. When you know what to expect from a root canal, you can feel comfortable and confident moving forward with this tooth-saving procedure.