Every year, root canal treatment saves and treats millions of patients’ teeth. The root canal is a dental treatment procedure that involves removing the root pulp. There are many aspects that a patient needs to learn while seeking this kind of treatment. Get in touch with us at Northridge Dentist to understand if this dental procedure is suitable for you and explore other alternatives treatments as well.

Definition of Root Canal

A root canal is a dental treatment procedure that treats a harmful decay or a severe tooth infection. During this procedure, the nerve and the pulp are removed, and the inner tooth is cleaned and sealed. If this treatment is not considered, the tissues around the tooth become infected, forming an abscess.

The term "root canal" describes the natural cavity at the center of the tooth. This is a soft pulp chamber within the root canal where the nerves of the tooth lie. The removal of the tooth nerve does not substantially affect the functionality of the entire tooth, but only the sensation of hot or cold. Lack of hot or cold sensation cannot change the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.

A tooth’s nerves are damaged when there is deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, or a large filling. Also, the pulp and nerves can be damaged due to a crack on the tooth or trauma to the face.

Reasons to Remove the Tooth Pulp

When the tissues of your tooth or the pulp are damaged, they usually break down, allowing bacteria to multiply within the chamber. The debris and bacteria inside the tooth pulp can lead to an abscessed tooth or cause severe infections. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that is formed at the end of the root of the tooth. It occurs when the infection spreads to the end of the root.

Apart from the abscess, the infection can cause the following symptoms:

  • Bone loss around the tip of the root

  • Swelling that can spread to the neck, face or head

  • Drainage problem that extends outwards from the root. This causes a hole to occur at the tooth’s side and drains into the gum through the cheek to the skin.

Major Causes of Root Canal Infections and Ways to Avoid Them

A Dentist could delay recommending a root canal treatment to you. There are warning signs such as cavities, which can take a long time before needing intensive care, such as root canal. Still, several situations make a root canal procedure more likely, and they are:

Failure to Brush or Floss Regularly

Brushing your teeth at least twice a day is essential to prevent dental problems. Brushing disrupts the development of bacteria that turns to plaque. Flossing is also vital since it helps to clean those hard-to-reach areas.

Forgetting to Visit Your Dentist

A lot of people experience extreme dental problems when they forget to visit the dentist. However, you should pay your dentist visits at least thrice a year or more frequently if you have a dental problem. Regularly visiting a dentist can help discover a dental problem before it worsens.

Long-Term Gum Disease

Periodontal diseases take long before they worsen. The conditions start by attacking the soft tissues that bind and provide blood flow to the teeth. If you are experiencing teeth discoloration or bleeding, this could be a possible sign of periodontal disease and could spread to the rest of the mouth.

Eating Hard Foods

Eating nuts and other hard food can easily crack the surface of your teeth. The crack provides a space where bacteria can enter the inner part of the tooth, causing root canal infection. If the tooth problem is not treated fast, the infection might worsen to the point of needing a root canal treatment.

Signs and Symptoms for Root Canal Infection

You cannot know if you have a root canal infection unless you visit a dentist. However, there are several warning signs and symptoms that you should be keen to notice. If you discover any of these symptoms, you could be suffering from a root canal infection, and you should seek dental treatment immediately. The sooner you visit a dentist, the higher are the chances of getting a better treatment outcome.

Persistent Pain

If you experience persistent tooth pain, this is a possible sign of a root canal infection. The pain might bother you for long but can go away at times. You might feel pain deep into your jawbone, jaw, face, and other teeth.

There are other causes of persistent pain besides the root canal. These possibilities include gum disease, referred pain from the sinuses, an impacted tooth infection, a damaged filling, or a cavity. No matter the cause of the pain, it is essential to see a dentist, especially if it persists. An early diagnosis would ease the pain and lead to better outcomes.

Sensitivity to Heat or Cold

If your tooth hurts when eating warm food, ice cream, drinking coffee, or icy-cold water, the odds are that you have a root canal infection. The sensitivity might feel like a sharp pain or dull ache. Therefore, you should seek dental treatment services to alleviate the pain before it prevents you from eating or drinking.

Discoloration of the Tooth

A pulp infection can discolor your tooth. Infection of the internal tissue can damage the roots, leading to a grayish-black appearance. The discoloration usually occurs at the anterior part of the tooth. The tooth pulp usually dies when there is inadequate blood supply signaling the possibility of a root canal infection. Although there are other possible reasons behind the tooth discoloration, it is always right to see your dentist.

Swollen Gums

Swollen gums around the tooth experiencing pain can be a significant sign of a root canal. The swelling might come or go and is usually tender when touched. The swelling is caused by the acidic waste product that results from dead pulp tissues, leading to the swelling of the outside tip area.

You might also experience small pimples on the gum, referred to as gum boils, parulis, or abscess. The pimple can ooze pus from the infection inside the tooth, giving you an unpleasant taste in your mouth and making your breath smell terrible.

Pain when Eating or Touching the Tooth

If your tooth is sensitive to eating or touching, it indicates that there is nerve damage or tooth decay and might lead to the root canal. If the tooth sensitivity persists, this might be a strong indication of root canal infection.

The ligaments near the root tip of an infected tooth can become hypersensitive if the pulp is dead. The waste from the dying pulp can irritate the ligament, causing the pain when you are biting something.

A Cracked or Chipped Tooth

If you crack or chip your tooth while chewing something hard, bacteria might enter your tooth’s inner parts and cause inflammation and infection. Injuring your tooth could not chip or crack it but damage the nerves. The nerves become inflamed, leading to pain and sensitivity. In that case, you should seek root canal treatment to handle the problem.

Tooth Mobility

If your tooth is infected, it might feel loose. This is due to pulpal necrosis or death of your nerves and can be a sign that you need a root canal treatment. The acidic waste product from the nerve death might soften the bone around the root of a dying tooth, causing its shaking. If there is more than one tooth that feels loose, the movement is likely to be caused by more than one issue. This calls for a root canal treatment.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment Process

If you are not experiencing severe symptoms, the dentist will take you through a preliminary treatment to try saving your tooth. If the initial procedure is not successful, he or she might recommend a root canal treatment. A root canal treatment involves a general sequence, which is as follows.

  1. In the first step, the dentist will administer local anesthesia through an injection on your gum to numb the tooth. If you have an acutely inflamed tooth, it may take a while to numb, but your dentist cannot start treatment until it is numb.

  2. The dentist will place a dental dam on the affected and the nearby teeth. A dental dam is a rubber or vinyl sheet used to isolate the affected tooth from the rest of the mouth. The tooth that is undergoing treatment is punched through a hole to isolate it. This allows the root canal treatment to be performed in a sterile environment free from saliva and bacteria.

  3. The dentist will drill a small access hole through the upper surface of the affected tooth or the behind if it is a front tooth. This provides access to the pulp chamber and root canal for the treatment process.

  4. The dentist will use a specially designed instrument to remove the dead pulp and clean the root canal and the pulp chamber. The process is not painful since the area is usually numb, and the tissue is being removed. Once the pulp and the nerve that contains it are removed, you can no longer feel any pain.

  5. The root canal is disinfected with an antibacterial and antiseptic solution. This is to remove any bacteria residue that might be left on the surface of the root canal.

  6. The canal is shaped with a flexible instrument to allow it to receive the root canal filling and the sealer. The canal is then washed and cleaned again to do away with any debris before the sealing process.

  7. The dentist will select a root canal filling that will fit on the freshly prepared canal. A rubber-like thermoplastic material known as gutta-percha is used in the filling process. The material is heated and compressed against the walls of the canal before it is sealed. The material is compressed together with an adhesive cement referred to as a sealer. Sealing the place is a crucial step in preventing any reinfection of the tooth.

  8. The dentist will place a temporary or permanent filling material to seal the access hole made to remove the infected pulp. If there is no sufficient structure to hold the filling in its place, the endodontist might decide to place a post made of metal or a sturdy plastic in one of the canals to retain it.

  9. Once the treatment is done, the dentist might recommend some antibiotics to treat and prevent further infections. Follow the instructions provided by the dentist if you want to achieve the best results. You might experience some after-effects, but they will last only a few days before they go away. You can look for some over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen if the dentist does not prescribe some to you.

  10. Once the filing has been permanently restored, you might require a crown or a filing over the sealed tooth. You might need to go back to the clinic to determine which type of restoration is suitable. This step is crucial since it prohibits re-contamination and recurrence of the infection.

What to Expect After a Root Canal Treatment

It is normal to experience pain after the root canal treatment. The pain usually results from the wearing off of the anesthesia and irritation of the surrounding nerves and gum. The pain should last for a few days. If it continues beyond one five to seven days, it might warrant an additional cleaning of the canals or other procedures from the Dentist.

What to Expect During the Initial Recovery Period

The pain experienced after a root canal procedure is always mild and can be relieved using over-the-counter medications. You can consider medications such as Motrin IB, Advil, and Tylenol. You should check with the doctor before taking the medication to ensure that you do not experience any negative interactions with the drugs.

It is also recommendable to avoid chewing hard foods immediately after the root canal. This would induce more pain than you would expect. You need to wait until your mouth's numbness has worn out before you start biting or chewing.

When You Should Seek Help

You need to immediately contact your dentist after experiencing different symptoms, apart from the slight sensation on the treated tooth. These unusual symptoms include:

  • Severe pain that would last for a few days

  • Visible swelling on the inside or outside of your mouth

  • An allergic reaction such as hives, itching, and rashes

  • Uneven bite

  • Losing the temporary filling or crown more than expected

  • Symptoms you experience before you return to the treatment

How to Manage the Pain

There are different ways you can manage your pain apart from medication. For instance, you should avoid taking crunchy and hard foods, quit smoking, and consider stress-relieving activities. You can adopt practices such as yoga, tai chi, and other practices to help focus away from the pain.

The Do's and Don'ts of Root Canal After treatment

If you want to get the best result after your root canal, there are several things that you should avoid. This will help in achieving the best results within a short period. Here is a detailed view of what you need to do after a root canal treatment.

Avoid Stressing Your Treated Tooth

Until a crown is placed on the tooth, it will remain unprotected. Avoid chewing on the side of the mouth that the treated tooth is to reduce stress on it.

Eat Soft Foods

If you are wondering what you should eat after a root canal, soft foods would be the answer to your needs. Eating hard foods would likely damage the temporary filling, which seals off the pulp canal from reinfections.

Gently Brush your Teeth

You need to be careful when brushing your treated area. The teeth and gum surrounding the treated tooth require thorough care, but you need to be gentle. It might be difficult to floss around the temporary filling, but if you take your time, you can easily manage it.

Have the Crown in Its Place

The structure of a tooth that has gone through a root canal treatment is usually weak. Therefore, you should have a crown or cap placed on the tooth to prevent any damages. Crowns are placed as a second procedure once the tooth and mouth have healed.

Despite the requirements needed after the root canal treatment, you need to avoid a couple of things. You should avoid the following during the after-treatment care:

  • Avoid hard foods

  • Brushing overly aggressively

  • Dealing with severe complications by yourself and call a dentist

The Cost of Root Canal Treatment

The cost of root canal treatment varies depending on different aspects. This includes the kind of tooth that you are dealing with and the process that the dentist will choose. When it comes to the type of tooth that is treated, molars are usually expensive compared with bicuspids and the front teeth.

The front tooth has one canal while your back has as many as three. If all of them need to be worked on, the procedure will be bulky, leading to a lot of expenses. The average cost of a root canal treatment is around $1,000 based on the tooth that needs the procedure. Below is an average price of root canal depending on the type of tooth that is treated:

  • Front Teeth: The average cost of treating the front teeth is around $300 to $1,500. A typical range would cost between $900 to $1,000.

  • Bicuspid Teeth: The cost of treating a bicuspid root canal is quite higher. It ranges between $400 to $1,800 with a typical cost of $900 to $ 1,100.

  • Molars: The cost of a molar root canal is quite high. You would spend between $500 to $2,000 with a typical cost of $1,000 to $1,300.

Some additional costs might result if you have to undergo an X-ray procedure and some follow-up visits. The follow-up visit might cost around $500 to $100 depending on the extent of the procedures that you need. You will need a crown or filling worth $300 to $3,000 based on the tooth that needs the crown. If you are lucky enough, you might need a filling that costs between $50 to $300.

Dental Insurance and Root Canal Treatment

The fact you have a dental insurance cover does not entirely mean that your root canal treatment expenses will be covered. Your dental insurance can cover all the costs or partial expenses, depending on the policy that you are using. It is always essential to ask your dentist whether he or she accepts dental insurance to determine whether to choose his or her services. However, this should not force you to compromise quality services against the possibility of full insurance coverage.

Find a Northridge Dentist Near Me

Root canal treatment can be tedious. That's why you need an experienced dentist who has successfully performed this kind of treatment on many patients. At Northridge Dentist, we have established a practice that offers root canal treatment and other dental services with the experience and skills necessary for quality care. We have adopted up-to-date technology to ensure that our clients receive the best services in Northridge, CA. Call us today at 818-875-0216 and schedule an appointment.