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Alan L. Stott, DDS

Root Canals

Teen woman pressing her bruised cheek with a painful expression as if she's having a terrible tooth

What is Root Canal Treatment?

First, a little tooth anatomy lesson. The outer hard layer of the tooth is the enamel. The inner hard layer is the dentin. The inner soft layer is a space consisting of the pulp chamber and the root canal. They contain the blood vessels and the nerve of the tooth. Deep decay, fractures, or trauma to the tooth can cause the nerve and blood vessels to die. The dying nerve can cause pain, infection, and an abscess. Once this happens, the tissue in the pulp chamber and root canal need to be removed to stop the pain and infection.

This process is called a root canal treatment. Once the nerve and blood vessels are removed, the root canal is disinfected, shaped and filled with a rubber material and a sterile cement. A root canal treatment is also called an endodontic treatment, tooth nerve treatment, or just plain root canal.

Are root canals painful?

Root canal treatment is not as bad as people make it sound. How often do we hear that something, “…is worse than having a root canal.” That statement is completely false. During root canal treatment, the tooth is completely numbed with local anesthetic.

How long does it take to do root canal treatment?

Depending on the complexity of the tooth, it takes 1-2 hours. It may be done in 1-2 appointments.

Is it better to remove the bad tooth or do root canal treatment?

It is almost always better to try to save as many teeth as we can. The fewer teeth a patient has, the harder it is to chew and the larger the denture or bridge will be to replace the spaces.

Is it better to do a root canal treatment or an implant?

There is a tissue attachment of the jawbone to the tooth. This attachment consists of fibers that attach to the root surface. If this connection stays healthy, it holds the tooth firmly in place and the tooth will function properly. In order for an implant to work when placed in the jawbone, the bone must integrate or fuse to the implant. This connection of bone to implant is not as good as the connection of bone to natural tooth. So, it is almost always better to save a tooth with a root canal treatment than place an implant. There are exceptions. If the tooth has a very deep fracture down close to the jawbone, if there is a fracture in the root, if the decay is too deep, if the tooth is real loose, or if there is severe gum disease and bone loss, then it is better to remove the tooth and place an implant. There is always a 5-7% chance a root canal treatment will not work. There is about the same chance that an implant will fail. If the bone and gum tissue around a natural tooth is strong and healthy, I think the best option is the root canal.

What does a root canal costs?

Depending on the location of the tooth, the number of roots, and the complexity of the case, the cost ranges between $500-$1200. Besides the cost of the root canal treatment, the patient needs to figure in the need for a post in the tooth to build the tooth back up and a dental crown placed on the tooth. So, the final cost to save a tooth may be $1600-$2200. Compare this to the cost to extract the tooth and place an implant, which could be about $4500-$5200.

Is root canal treatment always successful?

Root canal treatment is 92-95% successful. Sometimes a root canal is completed e and the tooth does fine for a few years, and t. Then git gets re-infected and has to be re-dontreatede. Root canals can fail due to missed canals, canals that cannot be cleaned or filled, root fractures, or infections that do not go away with normal treatment. If a root canal fails and a re-treatment is not an option, then the tooth has to be removed.

What is an endodontist? Do you refer to an endodontist?

An endodontist is a dentist that has three years of extra training. He specializes in doing root canals. They are experts at finding the source of hidden tooth pain and at doing complex root canals. We do a lot of root canal treatment in our office. We often refer a tooth to an endodontist if we cannot find what is causing a tooth to hurt or if the complexity of the root canal needs their expertise and special equipment. If a tooth has an old root canal treatment that needs to be redone, we will refer to the endododontist.

How can I know what is the best treatment for me?

Call our office and come in for a complete exam. We will look at the health of the teeth and gums. We will present to you the treatment options and the cost of each option. We will then provide you quality dental treatment to give you a healthy mouth and pretty smile. We look forward to seeing you.

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