Root Canal Procedure

Endodontic treatment – a Root Canal – can save your tooth, which is always preferred over tooth loss. How is this accomplished?

The endodontist carefully and completely removes the inflamed or infected pulp, then cleans and shapes the inside of the canal (the canal is the chamber inside the root of the tooth). The endodontist then fills and seals the space. After this procedure, you will return to your dentist, who will place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.

Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?

Most endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anesthetics, the root canal process has become virtually pain free. Most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.
For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive or a bit sore, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Follow your endodontist’s instructions carefully (See Post Treatment and Post Surgery pages). Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure pain that lasts more than a few days, call your endodontist.

What are the steps in a root canal/ endodontic procedure?

Endodontic treatment is typically performed in one or two visits and involves the following steps:

  1. The endodontist examines and x-rays the tooth, then administers local anesthetic. After the tooth is numb, the endodontist places a small protective sheet called a dental dam over the area, to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
  2. The endodontist makes an opening in the crown of the tooth. Very small instruments are used to clean the infected pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals, and to shape the space for filling.
  3. After the space is cleaned and shaped, the endodontist fills the root canals with a bio compatible, highly durable rubber-like material. The endodontist then places adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In most cases, a temporary filling is put in place to close the opening. The temporary filling will be removed by your dentist when you see him to have the tooth restored and finished. In other words, you must return to your dentist to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function.

NOTE: If the tooth lacks sufficient structure to hold the restoration in place, your dentist or endodontist may place a post inside the tooth. Ask your dentist or endodontist for more details about the specific restoration planned for your tooth.

How much will the procedure cost?

The cost varies depending on how complex the problem is and which tooth is affected. Molars are more difficult to treat, thus the fee is usually more. Most dental insurance policies provide some coverage for endodontic treatment. Generally, root canal procedures and restoration of the natural tooth are less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth extracted. An extracted tooth must be replaced with a bridge or implant to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost more than endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration. With root canal treatment, you save your natural teeth…and money.

Will the tooth need any special care or additional treatment after endodontic treatment?

Details on post-treatment care are shared on this site. You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist. The un-restored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist for a full restoration as soon as possible. Otherwise, you need only practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings. Most endodontically treated teeth last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment does not heal or the pain continues. Occasionally, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. If this occurs, redoing the endodontic procedure can usually save the tooth.