At Willowbrook Dental Clinic, we perform root canal procedures when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection.
What is a root canal?
At a tooth's centre, under the enamel and within the dentin, is an area of soft tissue called the pulp. In the pulp are the tooth's nerves, veins, arteries and lymph vessels.
Root canals are tiny, thin divisions that branch off from the top pulp chamber down to the tip of the root. A given tooth has at least one, and up to four (and sometimes even more), root canals.
Root canal treatment can save your natural teeth and prevent the need of extractions, dental implants or bridges when infection occurs. Symptoms of a pulp infection are generally acute dental pain or sensitivity to hot, cold or percussion.
Why do I feel pain in my tooth?
The pulp can become infected due to a deep cavity, a fracture that allows bacteria to seep in, or injury due to trauma. When this happens, the pulp can die.
Dead or damaged pulp causes increased blood flow and cellular activity, and the pressure this causes cannot be relieved from inside the tooth.
Symptoms of tooth pulp damage include pain in the tooth that is commonly felt when biting down, chewing or applying hot or cold foods and drinks. However those symptoms need to be confirmed by an x-ray.
Why do I need a root canal procedure or therapy?
The tooth cannot heal without treatment. Left untreated, the infection will spread, the bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate, and the tooth will eventually fall out. The pain will worsen until the patient is forced to seek emergency dental attention.
After a certain point, the only alternative to root canal treatment is an extraction of the tooth. This can cause surrounding teeth to shift, resulting in a bad bite.
So while an extraction is cheaper than root canal therapy, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge. these options can be more expensive than a root canal procedure or therapy. Given a choice between a root canal vs. an extraction, it's always better to keep your original teeth.
What is involved in root canal therapy?
Once we perform tests on the tooth and recommend therapy, we will either perform the treatment at our practice or refer you to an endodontist (a pulp specialist) if necessary.
Root canal treatment usually involves one appointment. You will first be given a local anesthetic to numb the area. A rubber sheet will then be placed around the tooth to isolate it.
Next, the pulp chamber, and any infected root canal, is cleaned of all diseased pulp and reshaped. Medication may be inserted into the area to fight bacteria.
Depending on the condition of the tooth, the crown may then be sealed temporarily to guard against re-contamination, or the tooth may be left open to drain, or we may fill the canals right away. The pulp chamber and canal(s) are filled with rubber-like material to prevent re-contamination.
If the tooth remains weak, a post may be inserted above the canal filling to reinforce it. Once filled, the area is permanently sealed. Finally, a gold or porcelain crown is placed over the tooth to help strengthen its structure and improve appearance.
What are the risks and complications?
Over 95 percent of root canal procedures are successful.
Sometimes though, the procedure needs to be redone due to diseased canal offshoots or the fracturing of canal filing instrument used (both of which rarely occur).
Once in a while, a root canal therapy will fail altogether, which is marked by a return of pain.
What happens after root canal treatment?
Due to natural tissue inflammation, you may feel some discomfort for a few days> this doesn't last long and can be controlled by an over-the-counter analgesic. A follow-up exam will be scheduled to monitor tissue healing.
After treatment, be sure to brush and floss regularly, avoid chewing hard foods on the treated tooth, and see your dentist regularly.
How much does a root canal cost?
The cost varies depending on how many canals are in the tooth, and where the tooth is in the mouth.
Most insurance companies consider root canal therapy a "basic" procedure; however, some insurance companies (e.g., PBC) will not cover "difficult access" root canals.
The patient is responsible for the difference in cost between an "easy access" and a "difficult access" root canal that is not covered by insurance.