Understanding a Root Canal
Cavities, or dental caries, are holes that form on the tooth due to an excess of plaque build-up that wears away the tooth's enamel or outer layer. Plaque is a sticky substance that forms when bacteria in the mouth break down sugars and starches from food.
These bacterias produce acids that can destroy tooth enamel and cause gum disease. Brushing and flossing can help remove plaque, but if left unaddressed, it can harden into tartar, a hardened form of plaque that only an oral hygienist can remove.
When cavities are caught early on, they can be addressed through a procedure called a filling. This utilizes gold, silver, porcelain, or composite resins to fill in gaps of a tooth that have been decayed to prevent further damage. These are painless and quick procedures that are pretty common, especially given how prominent cavities are.
However, if a cavity is left untreated, it can start to damage the pulp of your tooth. Infected pulp tissue can damage the nerve endings at the root of a tooth, which causes excruciating pain. At this point, you’ll likely need a root canal procedure.
How Does a Root Canal Work?
A dentist telling you that you need a root canal can sound super scary at first, but there’s no need to worry. Modern root canals are relatively painless and aren’t much different from a simple filling. They’ll only serve to bring you much more comfort in the long run.
A root canal must be completed by an endodontist, a person who treats the inside of a tooth. When you go in for your root canal, the first step is an x-ray to allow the endodontist to know exactly how much damage has occurred to the inside of the tooth.
Next, they’ll numb the tooth with a local anesthetic and place a dental dam over the area to keep it free of saliva throughout the procedure. These are just plastic cloths that isolate the tooth from the rest of the mouth.
After that, an opening is made in the tooth's crown, or top, to allow small instruments to clean out infected pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals.
Once the space is cleaned and disinfected, the root canals are filled with a material called gutta-percha to seal and protect the canal of the teeth. A temporary filling is usually placed to close the opening and is later removed upon a return visit to the endodontist.
What Does a Root Canal Feel Like?
The most painful part of a root canal is how your tooth feels before you get the procedure! It’s normal to think that these procedures will cause pain due to how involved they seem, but in reality, most people don’t experience any pain because the area is numbed beforehand.
With that said, mild discomfort is normal for a few days after the procedure is conducted. It will also likely feel sensitive, so avoiding hot or cold foods might be a good idea.
Can You Eat or Drink After a Root Canal?
In the first few days after a root canal, while the temporary filling is still present in the tooth, consuming only soft foods that don’t require much chewing is important. So stock up on your favorite ice creams, yogurts, and soups that you can slurp down easily. Some dentists may also recommend that you avoid eating anything for the first few hours after the procedure.
Additionally, you should keep brushing your teeth and flossing as normal, even during the same day as the procedure.
How Do I Know If I Need a Root Canal?
There are a few telltale signs that might make it pretty clear that it’s time to take a trip to the dentist. The most glaring symptom is persistent, often intense toothaches. You’ll likely feel it deep in the bone of your teeth, but you may also feel some pain in your jaw or face.
You’ll also likely be hypersensitive to hot and cold foods. While it might be a mild or dull ache, it’s often associated with a sharp feeling that hurts pretty bad. If the sensation lingers after you’re done eating or drinking, you may need a root canal.
Other symptoms include tooth discoloration, pain when you touch the tooth or bite down, swollen gums, or a chip or crack on the tooth’s surface.
What Happens If I Don’t Get a Root Canal?
Root canals sound much scarier than they actually are. If your dentist recommends this procedure, you should get it done as soon as possible to prevent even more severe issues.
If disease within the pulp of a tooth has gone untreated for too long, it might infect the tooth to a point beyond repair. If a crown, filling, or root canal cannot fix it, the last option is to extract the tooth from the gums.
While extraction isn’t the end of the world, it can leave huge gaps in your mouth that can mess up the natural alignment of the rest of your teeth. For that reason, you might need a dental implant to replace the missing tooth, which can run a pretty hefty price tag.
Root Canal vs. Fillings vs. Crowns
A root canal procedure often gets confused with two similar procedures: fillings and crowns. However, there are some key differences to understanding which procedure is more appropriate for you.
Fillings are less involved procedures that can fix the early damage of tooth decay before it affects the nerves. When a cavity is caught early enough, the decayed area of the tooth can be removed and replaced with an artificial filling made of gold, silver, resin, or porcelain. Fillings don’t require the pulp or nerves of a tooth to be removed.
Crowns can be used to fix a tooth with external damage from decay or trauma. In this procedure, the tooth is reshaped to fit a covering (the crown) over the top. You can think of it as a little hat for your tooth that protects the nerves from damage and restores the tooth's function. This procedure also does not require the nerves or pulp to be removed.
How To Prevent a Root Canal
You can take some preventative steps to avoid the need for a root canal by practicing good oral hygiene. The basics are brushing your teeth once in the morning and once at night for at least two minutes. Additionally, follow this up with some flossing at least once a day.
Additionally, regular dental visits are necessary because they may catch early signs of a cavity and prevent the need for an involved procedure such as a root canal. In many cases, a cavity can be addressed with a dental filling instead.
You can also limit your sugary foods and carbohydrates intake, which stick to the teeth and foster plaque build-up. So there was a good reason why your parents were buzzkills about only having one piece of candy on Halloween night.
How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?
Root canals can alleviate pain and restore the integrity of an infected tooth. But without insurance, these procedures can be inaccessible for most. The average price of a root canal without insurance is $1,336.
That’s a steep price to pay, and it bars many individuals from receiving the dental care they desperately need. It’s time to break down these barriers without breaking the bank.
How To Afford a Root Canal
Flossy is an affordable alternative to dental insurance that uses a pay-as-you-go model, so you only pay for the services you need. No deductibles, no monthly premiums, no annual fees, and no membership costs -- it’s transparent pricing that you’ll know before you go.
We offer up to 50% off dental procedures, from routine cleanings to emergency procedures like crowns or fillings. You can get a root canal from a trusted dentist for as low as $690, which is nearly half of the average price. All this can be done through our tech-enabled app, removing the headache associated with traditional scheduling.
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It’s quality care that you can trust and afford! Book an appointment now to save on dental procedures, from routine cleanings to root canals.
No Insurance, No Problem
Root canals involve removing the infected or decaying pulp from a tooth’s root to prevent further damage and alleviate pain. These procedures are often necessary if a cavity has gone untreated to a point where it damages the nerves of a tooth.
These procedures are comfortable and relatively painless. They work to eliminate a lot of the discomfort that is otherwise caused by excessive decay. They differ from fillings and crowns, which don’t require the removal of the inner pulp.
The only problem with root canals is that they are costly procedures, and without insurance, they can cost more than $1,300. However, an affordable alternative is here.
No insurance? No problem.
Flossy is a pay-as-you-go alternative to dental insurance that can save you up to 50% on procedures like root canals, extractions, whitening, cleaning, and more.
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Cavities: Tooth Decay, Toothache, Causes, Prevention & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic
Dental Plaque: What Is It, Causes, How to Remove, Prevent & Treat | Cleveland Clinic
What is a Root Canal? | American Association of Endodontists
Root Canal Explained | American Association of Endodontists
Tooth extraction | MedlinePlus
Dental Crowns: What Are They, Types, Procedure & Care | Cleveland Clinic