Root canal treatments can save a tooth you’d otherwise lose.

When you go to the dentist, whether it’s for a regularly scheduled or emergency dentist appointment, one of the last things you likely want to hear Dr. Fenn say is that you need a root canal treatment. Although this treatment is the only way to save your tooth once decay or infection has reached the nerves of your tooth, it has a bad reputation that’s endured for decades. A lot of these stereotypes are no longer true, but they cause patients added stress because they’re planning on the experience being painful or scary.

To clear up some of this confusion, here are answers to 5 of the most common questions patients ask us about root canal treatments.

What is a root canal, and why do I need a root canal treatment?

A root canal isn’t actually a treatment; it’s the part of your body being treated. The term refers to the space in the center of your tooth that extends from the crown of your tooth down into the tips of its root and contains a jumble of connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels, known as the pulp. The procedure itself is called a root canal treatment or endodontic treatment, and there are a few reasons you may need it. The most common reason is a cavity that’s severe enough to reach the pulp of the tooth, but you’ll also need the procedure if the tooth is infected, suffering from an abscess, or if the tooth cracks or breaks severely enough to expose the pulp.

Does a root canal hurt?

There’s a nugget of truth in the lingering belief that root canal treatments hurt. Before dentists had access to anesthesia, the treatment used to be painful. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about feeling pain during your root canal treatment these days. Modern dentists use localized anesthesia to prevent you from feeling pain, and it’s effective. You can be awake for the entire root canal treatment without feeling any pain.

What does the procedure involve, and how long will it take?

The root canal treatment itself will likely take an hour or two, depending on your individual case. Dr. Fenn will begin by numbing your tooth with a localized anesthetic to ensure you won’t feel any pain. Once he’s sure you’re completely numb, he will utilize precision hand tools specifically made to remove decay, create a passage into the pulp chamber, and gently remove the affected pulp. Once the pulp is out, Dr. Fenn will flush the root canal to ensure it’s clean and sterilized before drying it and permanently filling it.

You’ll need a dental crown placed on top of your tooth to restore it and protect it from further decay. If you get a single day crown, Dr. Fenn can design, mill, and place your permanent crown right away, but if you choose a traditional crown, he’ll need to place a temporary crown while you wait for your permanent crown to be milled in an outside lab and sent to our office. You’ll have to come back for a second appointment in a few weeks so Dr. Fenn can place your permanent crown once it arrives in the mail.

What does the recovery process look like?

Once the anesthesia wears off and your tooth is no longer numb, it’ll begin to feel sore, but you’ll likely be surprised by how mild the pain is after your root canal treatment! You should be able to manage it easily with ice or over-the-counter pain medication, and it should disappear after no more than three days. While you’re healing, however, you should avoid chewing on the affected side of your mouth if possible and try to stick to eating softer foods. Chewing too much on the side that’s already sore can make your tooth hurt worse or for longer, so it’s wise to give it a rest until it feels better. Additionally, Dr. Fenn may prescribe antibiotics to help prevent another infection. If he does, make sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics even if you’ve started feeling better.

How much is a root canal?

The average root canal cost is hard to pinpoint for a number of reasons, including the fact that the treatment is more complex — and thus, more expensive — for certain teeth. The cost of your specific treatment depends on what tooth needs a root canal treatment, as well as the extent of the decay and how much your dental insurance covers. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that once it becomes necessary, a root canal treatment is the only way to save your tooth, and it’s much less expensive than it would be to get a tooth extracted and replaced with a bridge or implant. During your initial consultation, we can estimate the cost of your treatment and how much your insurance is likely to pay. If you’re worried about affording your treatment, we can also discuss payment options.

While root canal therapy might have an intimidating reputation, the truth is modern technology and processes have ensured that the procedure is easy and painless. Plus, it’s the best way to protect your oral health in both the short and long term. If you’re starting your search for a “dentist office near me” or “emergency dentist near me” to determine if you need a root canal treatment, feel free to call our Buxton dentist’s office at any time to schedule a consultation!