Updated: 2/11/2020 There’s nothing scarier than hearing your dentist say the words “root canal.” The pain and cost of a root canal may give it a bad reputation, but this…

What is a Root Canal, and Why Does My Tooth Hurt?

Updated: 2/11/2020

There’s nothing scarier than hearing your dentist say the words “root canal.” The pain and cost of a root canal may give it a bad reputation, but this procedure is very effective at repairing a damaged tooth. Many people are not familiar with how a root canal treatment actually works, so we answered some of the common questions about the procedure.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is actually the name of the chamber that houses a tooth’s nerve and pulp tissue inside the tooth’s root. If it becomes infected or decayed, it’s very painful. Often this can be a result of an unchecked cavity that continues rotting away the tooth all the way down into the root. An abscess may even develop below the root. If it reaches that far, a filling would no longer be helpful. The dentist would need to go into the root canal and remove all of the rotted matter to prevent the infection from spreading into the rest of the mouth. This procedure is called a root canal treatment, or endodontic therapy.

How much does it cost?

Without a dental plan, root canals can get pretty expensive considering that there are a few separate things for which you must pay:

  • The root canal itself typically costs about $650-$770, though it can go up if the tooth is a molar.
  • In addition, crowns can cost anywhere from $830 to $1150, depending on the location and the type of crown you receive.
  • There may also be additional costs for things like X-rays or anesthesia.

This can add up to a lot of money if you have no dental coverage. However, discount plans such as the Careington Care 500 Series can help save you up to 60% or more on procedures like root canals.

  • With this plan, the price of a root canal ranges from about $270-$400 with a general dentist.
  • The price of a crown ranges from about $400-$570 on the plan.

For the most up-to-date treatment prices in your area, please visit the 1Dental fee schedule and enter your zip code.

If you need this procedure, you may want to look into getting a discount plan to help cut down the costs and make your dental work more affordable.

What happens during a root canal procedure?

If you need this procedure, the idea might seem quite scary, but being familiar with the procedure will help prepare you for what’s to come. When you first go in, the dentist will take an X-ray in order to see the shape of the root canal and to determine the severity of the infection. After this, they will numb the affected area so you won’t feel anything. In some cases, the nerve of the tooth may have decayed to the point that it has lost feeling anyway. He or she will place a rubber dam around the tooth to keep it dry and to help prevent the rest of the mouth from coming in contact with the infected matter being removed. Then, a hole is drilled in the tooth so that the decayed nerve tissue can be removed. The dentist will next use thin files to clear the root canal of debris and bacteria while periodically flushing the hole with bleach or water to rinse it clean. After all, the decay is removed and the drilled hole is filled with a sealant. In some cases where the root has become weak, a post is placed in the root for extra support.

False teeth cost a lot more to anchor and are more difficult to maintain. Because of this, when a root canal is needed, it’s usually better to salvage the natural tooth however possible. A cap or crown can be placed over the remaining portion of the gum line since root canal therapy leaves the root intact. The use of a cap or crown becomes necessary after the therapy because the tooth’s surface is worn down and fragile. This part of the procedure may be done the same day or a few weeks later.

Why might I need one?

The most common causes of root canal infections are:

  • Cracked or chipped tooth
  • Deep or widespread decay
  • Repeated or large fillings
  • Multiple procedures on the tooth
  • Repeated irritation of the area

Can my dentist perform a root canal?

All dentists are trained to perform this treatment in dental school. Despite this fact, not all general dentists offer the procedure at their practice. Those that do, however, typically have cheaper prices for the procedure than seeing a specialist. However, even if your general dentist does perform endodontic therapy, he may refer you to a specialist called an endodontist if he does not feel comfortable performing the treatment. Endodontists are also better trained for the trickier procedures.

While seeing a specialist is typically more expensive, endodontists have received extra training in performing root canals by receiving additional education after completing dental school. If you’re more comfortable with a more experienced dentist, you may find that an endodontist is worth the extra money.

This treatment can seem frightening at first, but once you’re familiar with the procedure, it will seem a lot less intimidating. Because the bacteria can spread to the rest of your mouth, be sure to talk to your dentist about your options if you think you might need a root canal. Doing so will greatly improve your oral health as well as your overall wellness.


Leave a Reply