You’ve heard the expression before: “I’d rather get a root canal than [fill in the blank]”. The truth is, root canals have a pretty bad rap, and apparently, people would rather do some crazy stuff to avoid them.
In fact, 59% of people said they’d rather endure public speaking than get a root canal. 53% would rather hold a snake in their lap for 15 minutes than get a root canal. 41% of people would rather swim with sharks than get a root canal.
You get the idea. So why does this dental procedure have such a bad reputation? Why would some people rather hang out with sharks and snakes than get one?
For most people, the idea of pain makes them leery of the root canal procedure. But the procedure and dentistry have made major advances, making getting a root canal much less traumatic than its reputation would suggest.
Read on for our detailed guide on everything you need to know about getting a root canal.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure that works to address a damaged tooth. Like the bones in your body, your teeth are also made up of many layers.
The inside of your tooth contains a dental pulp. It can become infected when you have a deep cavity, cracks, chips, or fractures on the tooth. When this dental pulp gets inflamed or infected, a root canal becomes necessary to remove the affected area.
During the root canal procedure, the dentist removes the infected pulp, seals the tooth, and places a dental crown (more on the specific procedure later on).
What Is Dental Pulp?
In order to understand the root canal procedure and why it’s necessary, you need to know what makes up the tooth.
Underneath the enamel layer of your teeth is dentin. This is a soft layer of your tooth and it contains the pulp chamber. The pulp chamber contains:
- Connective tissue
- The blood vessels of a tooth
When your tooth experiences trauma of any kind, the nerves in the pulp will react and you’ll feel pain.
How Do You Know You Need a Root Canal Procedure?
The good news is that your teeth and mouth are typically good communicators. They often give you signs there’s an issue that you should address.
Signs you might need a root canal include:
- Severe pain or toothaches, often after chewing or when you apply pressure
- Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold
- Gum swelling
- Tenderness near the infected tooth area
- Deep cavity
- Tooth discoloration
- Gum discoloration, often looking darker near the gums of the infected tooth
Another serious sign is a dental abscess. This will likely appear in your mouth like a small, white pimple that’ll swell near the tooth’s root. A dental abscess is a serious concern and shouldn’t be ignored.
While you might try hard to ignore the signs in your mouth, you don’t want to wait too long. Doing so can mean your tooth might need an extraction that’ll require a bone graft to an implant. Ignoring the problem only makes it worse.
Root Canal Procedure in 3 Appointments
If your root canal is a typical one, it’ll take 3 appointments with your dentist or endodontist.
In the first appointment, the dentist will take a set of X-rays. Then the infected tooth will be numbed. The dentist will go in and remove the infected pulp from the tooth.
The dentist will then insert into the tooth a medicated paste made of a rubber-like material, called gutta-percha. This will stay in your tooth between visits.
At the second appointment, the dentist will check on the tooth, clean it, and then seal it.
At the final appointment, the dentist will place a dental crown on the tooth to secure the repaired tooth.
What Steps Are Followed During a Root Canal?
Let’s look more specifically at what happens with your tooth during the root canal procedure, especially that first appointment.
In the first step, the dentist will numb the tooth. If you’re feeling very anxious about the procedure, the dentist can provide additional sedation for you. This ensures you don’t feel anything being done to the tooth during the procedure and helps to relax you.
The dentist will also set up a shield to protect the teeth around the infected one. This also helps to keep the infected tooth dry and clean during the procedure.
Then the dentist will create an opening in the top, biting surface of the tooth so they can access the infected dental pulp.
Removal of the infected dental pulp is the most important part of the procedure. For the root canal to be successful, all the infected material must be out.
The dentist will then clean the root canals inside the tooth and a medicated irrigation fluid into the root canal to disinfect it. This helps to rinse out any bacteria hanging around inside.
Once the dentist is sure all the infected material is gone, then a temporary filling is placed and the tooth is sealed. In the final step, the crown is placed on the tooth to restore its shape and keep the tooth secure going forward.
Recovery Following a Root Canal
The most common concern is what root canal pain you’ll feel following the procedure. Your dentist can speak about your situation specifically. But in most cases, the pain should be mild.
It’s important that you’re gentle with your tooth until the crown is placed. You’ll want to practice extra careful dental hygiene while your tooth heals and you await the dental crown.
What Does a Root Canal Cost?
In addition to the actual pain of the root canal, many people worry about the root canal cost. Prices vary based on where you live and the severity of your dental situation.
In most cases, you can use dental https://whitespools.com/ insurance and some health insurance coverage. If you have an HSA through your employer, you can also use this to cover the expenses.
The average cost of a root canal varies, but it ranges between $1,400 and $2,200 out of pocket. Some dentists will work with you on a payment plan if necessary.
If you need a root canal, you can’t really wait to have it done, as the situation could worsen and become more emergent.
Understanding the Root Canal Procedure
While getting the news you need a root canal is never desirable, your root canal dentist can guide you through the process. For most people who are afraid of the pain involved, dentistry has made great advances in pain management.
If you’re concerned you have a dental problem or need a new kind of dental experience, we want to help you. Contact us at The Dental Lounge to set up an appointment today.