Dental Health and Root Canals
How Painful Is a Root Canal?
Root canal procedures have the reputation of being painful. Actually, most people report that the procedure itself is no more painful than having a filling placed.
What Should One Expect After the Root Canal?
For the first few days following the completion of a root canal, the tooth may feel sensitive due to natural tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This sensitivity or discomfort usually can be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Most patients can return to their normal activities the next day.
Until your root canal procedure is completely finished -- that is to say, the permanent filling is in place and/or the crown, it's wise to minimize chewing on the tooth under repair. This step will help avoid recontamination of the interior of the tooth and also may prevent a fragile tooth from breaking before the tooth can be fully restored.
As far as oral health care is concerned, brush and floss as you regularly would and see your dentist at normally scheduled intervals.
How Successful Are Root Canals?
Root canal treatment is highly successful; the procedure has more than a 95% success rate. Many teeth fixed with a root canal can last a lifetime.
Also, because the final step of the root canal procedure is application of a restoration such as a crown or a filling, it will not be obvious to onlookers that a root canal was performed.
Complications of a Root Canal
Despite your dentist's best efforts to clean and seal a tooth, new infections might emerge after a root canal. Among the likely reasons for this include:
- More than the normally anticipated number of root canals in a tooth (leaving one of them uncleaned)
- An undetected crack in the root of a tooth
- A defective or inadequate dental restoration that has allowed bacteria to get past the restoration into the inner aspects of the tooth and recontaminate the area
- A breakdown of the inner sealing material over time, allowing bacteria to recontaminate the inner aspects of the tooth
Sometimes retreatment can be successful, other times endodontic surgery must be tried in order to save the tooth. The most common endodontic surgical procedure is an apicoectomy or root-end resection. This procedure relieves the inflammation or infection in the bony area around the end of your tooth that continues after endodontic treatment. In this procedure, the gum tissue is opened, the infected tissue is removed, and sometimes the very end of the root is removed. A small filling may be placed to seal the root canal.
Cost of a Root Canal
The cost varies depending on how severe the problem is and the tooth affected. Many dental insurance policies cover endodontic treatment. A ballpark estimate for the root canal treatment itself (not including a dental restoration following the procedure) performed by a general dentist could range from $350 to $540 for an incisor and $520 to $800 for a molar. The fees charged by endodontists could be up to 50% higher.