When do you need a root canal?

Root canal treatment is notoriously unpopular and a procedure that strikes fear in the heart of many patients. However, it’s an incredibly effective treatment, and it’s far less unpleasant with modern dental technology and anesthetics.

However, you might be wondering when a root canal becomes necessary. North Atlanta Family Dentistry is here to answer any of your questions. 

What is a root canal procedure?

Root canal therapy is an endodontic treatment that treats an infected tooth due to severe tooth decay. Successful root canal surgery will save your natural tooth and eliminate the need for tooth extraction. It removes the internal tissue of the tooth, known as the tooth’s pulp, where your tooth’s nerves and blood vessels are located. Inflamed or infected pulp can cause discomfort ranging from a dull ache to debilitating tooth pain.

A healthy tooth can function and survive without the dental pulp. During a root canal treatment, your dentist will administer local anesthesia to the site, then drill through the tooth’s hard tissue to access the pulp chamber. They will then remove the tooth pulp from the damaged tooth and any canals that extend into the root.

After removing the pulp, your dentist will disinfect the open root canals to eliminate bacteria. Then the canals will be filled with gutta-percha, a long-lasting filling material. If we have to open a large hole in the tooth, you will probably need a dental crown.

What are the signs you may need root canal treatment?

Some telltale signs that you may require root canal treatment include:

  • Persistent tooth pain, especially when biting down or chewing on food
  • Sensitivity in your tooth to food or liquid that is hot or cold
  • A throbbing sensation in the affected tooth
  • An abscess (a pocket of pus) on the gums near the tooth
  • Inflamed gums
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Tooth discoloration

Please call us if you experience any of the symptoms listed above. We care about keeping your smile healthy and pain-free, and endodontic treatment may be the right choice for you.

Is it obvious when you need a root canal?

While there are several warning signs, it’s not always obvious when you need a root canal, so regularly visit your dentist for checkups. Unfortunately, people often do not experience any root canal symptoms until the infection has advanced. By then, endodontic treatment may be unavoidable.

Regular dental cleanings can also help treat dental issues in the early stages before a more invasive dental procedure like a root canal are necessary. For example, minor procedures can be done to repair a chipped or cracked tooth. But suppose you avoid restoring the chipped or cracked tooth. In that case, this can leave an opening for bacteria to invade the soft tissue and cause an infection or deep decay.

How does a dentist determine if you need a root canal?

A dentist will typically ask about symptoms such as pain when chewing or biting down, sensitivity to hot or cold, a throbbing sensation in the tooth, swollen gums, and a bad taste in the mouth. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please give our office a call.

If it seems you may need a root canal, we will take X-rays to evaluate the cause of your symptoms. X-rays allow our dentists to visualize the decay inside your tooth and determine if an infection is also present.

Root Canal Recovery

Most patients find that their pain following the procedure is far less severe than their original toothache. Therefore, it shouldn’t be very painful, although you may experience some discomfort.

Keep the area clean and avoid chewing on hard foods. If you are prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed.

Let us know if you have persistent pain lasting longer than a week or think you have unusual symptoms.

How much does a root canal cost?

Unfortunately, the cost of a root canal is not easy to estimate since it varies from person to person. Therefore, this procedure cannot be quoted as a flat price because many factors may need to be evaluated before performing the treatment. 

Generally speaking, a root canal will cost more than a crown. However, several factors can affect how complicated the procedure will be. For example, a more severe infection may require additional medicine or tools than one would typically expect.

What are the risks associated with root canals?

There are a few risks associated with root canals therapy, but they are generally minor.

  • Some patients may experience pain or swelling after the procedure.
  • There is a minimal risk that the nerve tissue may not be removed entirely, which could cause discomfort or pain.
  • There is a minimal risk that the natural tooth may not be saved and will need to be extracted.

In rare cases, root canal infections are not successfully eliminated by root canal treatment. Some facial swelling and discomfort following the procedure can be expected, but if the pain worsens or lasts more than a week, get in touch with us. We will help you determine if these are warning signs for a lingering infection.

Despite these risks, a root canal is a very safe and commonly performed procedure. With proper care, the vast majority of people experience no complications.

Alternatives to Root Canal Treatment

There are a few alternatives to a root canal, but they are generally not as effective. One option is to have a tooth extracted. However, extraction is a more invasive procedure. Losing a tooth also means you should probably consider something like a dental bridge or implant to replace the missing tooth.

Another option is to have a dental crown placed on the tooth. A dental crown is a restoration used to cover a tooth that has been damaged. It is typically used when the damage is not severe enough to require a root canal.

Your dentist can help you find the best course of action for any dental work to keep your teeth healthy. In addition, we will help you determine insurance coverage or possible payment plans if cost is a concern.

Call us for help!

If you have a painful tooth and think you may need a root canal, North Atlanta Family Dentistry can help you through the process. Please reach out to us if you need a consultation or have questions.