If you’ve never had a root canal before, here’s what you should know.

Root canal treatments are feared by many, however, the treatment will relieve pain and save your smile, and is often performed painlessly.

What is the root canal?

Essentially, the root canal is the tooth’s center, which lies below the gum line and runs down the length of the tooth. The American Association of Endodontists defines the inner chamber above the root as the pulp chamber, which is filled with soft tissue. This soft tissue contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, which help the root of the tooth grow during development and provides blood circulation. Once the tooth is fully developed it can survive without the pulp. However, teeth are more brittle after a root canal treatment.

Why do you need a root canal treatment?

A root canal treatment is necessary when the soft tissue within the pulp chamber dies; this could be from trauma or decay makes its way through the outer enamel and the next layer of the tooth called dentin. Once decay reaches the pulp chamber, the pulp tissue can become inflamed and infected. When this happens, the tooth and surrounding area can experience extreme pain and discomfort, which cannot be treated without losing the tooth or having a root canal treatment.

What does your dentist do during a root canal?

A root canal treatment can be performed by an endodontist or general dentist. The first step to treating the inflamed or infected pulp is to numb the area. (You do not need to be under general anesthesia, but can use a local anesthetic instead.) Your endodontist will isolate the tooth in need of treatment with a shield. From there the crown of the tooth is opened up, usually with a drill, and fluid is worked into the canals with files to disinfect. Your dentist will first remove the pulp from the pulp chamber and the root canals, shaping them as they go. When the canals are cleaned, your dentist will fill and seal them. In most cases, if your treatment was performed by an endodontist, they will put a temporary filling in the tooth, which will need to be filled and shaped by your dentist in a follow-up appointment.

How much will a root canal cost?

The cost of a root canal varies based on the provider, geographic location and the type of tooth and other factors, but the average price of a root canal treatment ranges from $750 to more than $1,100. With dental insurance, however, you will likely pay significantly less. To be sure about your cost, ask your insurance provider for a pretreatment estimate.

If your dentist tells you that you need a root canal treatment, don’t let fear overwhelm you. Although it can be daunting, a root canal treatment may be the best way to save your smile and relieve your pain.

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