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Root canals are common endodontic treatments, with dentists performing around 15 million procedures each year.1
A root canal relieves pain and restores dental health by treating an infection in the soft center of a tooth. This soft tissue is called pulp. It contains nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels.
Your dentist may recommend a root canal if the pulp is injured, inflamed, or infected. There are several reasons why this might happen:
Certain symptoms suggest you may need root canal therapy, including:
Sometimes teeth appear normal, and there are no visible signs of a problem. The top, visible part of the tooth called the crown might appear perfectly intact even if the pulp is dead. Therefore, your dentist may examine the tooth and take X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.
According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, an untreated necrotic or dead tooth can lead to a dental abscess. If not treated accordingly, it can lead to hospitalization and, in some cases, death.
They may then recommend a root canal because removing the unhealthy pulp is the best way to save the tooth and relieve pain. Without treatment, the tooth will become more painful, and you could develop an abscess.2
Root canal tests are necessary in order to determine which tooth is causing pain. Some common tests include:
Root canals are performed under local anesthetic. You can generally return to school or work directly after the procedure.
Here are the steps:3
Following the root canal procedure, your mouth may feel sore after the anesthetic wears off. You can use over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), to relieve pain. Contact your dentist if the pain is extreme or doesn’t ease after a few days.
You can usually resume your normal activities straight away, but it’s best to avoid eating until the numbness has subsided. Your tooth might feel slightly strange after the procedure, but this is normal.
You’ll usually have a check-up with your dentist a few days after the procedure. They’ll check on the tooth to ensure the infection is gone.
A simple root canal procedure takes about 60 minutes to complete. If you have a root canal on a molar with several roots, it can take more than an hour.
Dentists can sometimes perform a root canal in one appointment, although this can increase the risk of complications.5
Multiple visits are required if there is an extensive infection that requires time to clear. In this case, the dentist first cleans the infection and then places a disinfectant medication in the canal. The medication has time to reduce bacterial numbers between visits, reducing the chances of persistent inflammation and infection.
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Everyone heals from a root canal at different rates. Some people have discomfort for a week or more, while others may only have minor soreness for a day or two.
Here is what a typical root canal recovery timeline is like:
If you’re still experiencing significant pain after this time, contact your dentist.
Follow these aftercare tips to promote proper healing and reduce the risk of complications:
If you practice good oral hygiene and care for your teeth properly, your restored tooth could last a lifetime.6
According to the American Dental Association 2020 Survey of Dental Fees amongst general dentists:
The prices can vary due to the location of the dental practice and the individual dentists fees.
A root canal is a common dental procedure used to treat an infected tooth. During the procedure, the dentist removes the infection and cleans the inside of the tooth. The final restoration is usually a crown.
Although you may experience mild discomfort and tenderness for a few days after the procedure, this should resolve within a few weeks.
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