What is the root canal?

The term “root canal” refers to two things — the anatomical root canal within the tooth and the treatment of an inflamed root canal (root canal therapy). However, before you understand your options with root canal therapy, you must understand the anatomical root canal. Well, the root canal is the innermost portion of the tooth, i.e., the part of the tooth connected to the roots. The tooth is made of several layers. The outermost white layer is the enamel, followed by a hard layer called the dentin, followed by soft tissues called the pulp. The pulp tissues contact the nerves, connective tissues, blood vessels, and other components that help the tooth grow. The root canal houses the pulp tissues, nerves, and blood vessels.

When is a root canal needed?

A root canal, i.e., root canal therapy, is needed when the pulp chamber is infected or inflamed. This may happen because of dental injuries that expose the underlying pulp tissues and nerves to bacterial infections. Or it may happen gradually due to untreated dental decay and cavities. All of us develop cavities due to bacterial decay. If you don’t go for regular dental cleanings, the small traces of food particles in your teeth and gums can lead to plaque and tartar accumulation, which, in turn, leads to an increased bacterial presence.

Over time, the bacteria and plaque erode the enamel, leading to cavities. If the cavity isn’t filled promptly, the decay will continue spreading deeper into the tooth until it reaches the root canal. A root canal is needed when the bacterial infection has already reached the internal pulp tissues, i.e., when it’s too late for fillings. At this stage, all the infected inner portions of the tooth must be removed. If the pulp tissues aren’t removed, the infection might continue spreading until the entire tooth has to be removed.

What are the root canal symptoms to look out for?

  • Severe toothaches while chewing or biting
  • Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Visible holes on the teeth
  • Lingering sensitivity after the source of sensation is removed
  • Tenderness and swelling in the gums
  • Darkening of the gums

What is so special about root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is special and essential because it saves the tooth from complete decay. It’s your last resort — if you avoid root canal therapy, you will eventually need a dental extraction, and the infection may spread to the surrounding teeth. However, root canal therapy removes the infected pulp tissues, carefully cleans the insides of the root canal, and seals the space, thereby preserving the tooth. The dentist also attaches a dental crown to the tooth to restore optimal functionality. As such, root canal treatments restore your teeth to their original appearance and functionality.

What is an emergency root canal treatment?

All root canals are essentially emergency procedures because they save the infected teeth from complete decay. However, in some cases, the root canal must be performed without delay, i.e., within a day or two, to prevent the infection from spreading. That’s an emergency root canal treatment. You’ll know you need an emergency root canal treatment when your affected tooth starts hurting unbearably or if the toothache suddenly stops. If the toothache suddenly stops, that’s an indication that the internal nerves are dead, indicating that the infection has spread far. However, you must get a root canal treatment done long before it becomes an emergency — the chance of failure increases the longer you wait.

What should I expect from root canal therapy?

  1. The endodontist, i.e., the dentist specializing in root canals, will examine your tooth and take radiographs to curate the ideal treatment plan.
  2. The infected tooth will be numbed, and the dentist will place a “dental dam” to isolate the tooth and prevent saliva interference.
  3. The dentist will make an opening on the crown with small instruments to remove the internal pulp tissues, blood vessels, and nerves.
  4. The dentist will clean the sides of the root canal to remove the last traces of pulp tissues and flush away the debris.
  5. The dentist will fill the root canal with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. This will seal the root canal to prevent bacterial infections.
  6. The dentist may apply an antibiotic medicine and provide a temporary filling. You’ll have to wear the temporary filling until the dental crown is prepared.
  7. Once the dental crown is prepared based on your impressions and measurements, the dentist will attach it to the tooth to restore complete functionality.

Are root canal treatments for a lifetime?

Yes, root canal treatments are supposed to last a lifetime. However, the tooth is left vulnerable and weak after the root canal, making it more susceptible to bacteria and injuries. That’s why the dentist will recommend a dental crown to protect the weakened tooth.

How much does a root canal cost?

The cost of a root canal depends on numerous factors, such as the tooth’s location, the number of root canals within the tooth, and the type of dental crown used. Based on these factors, the dentist will provide an accurate quote for your treatment. You’ll receive the cost breakdown before the treatment, so there aren’t any surprises. You can also get dental insurance to pay for some or all of the treatment cost, depending on your insurance plan.

Please schedule an appointment with a dentist that specializes in root canals.

URBN Dental is one of the most reputable dental clinics for root canals and other general dentistry services. Our dental clinic is led by a dentist that specializes in root canals, so you can be assured of the highest levels of care. For more information, please schedule an appointment at our dental clinic in Uptown Houston, TX.