What Is a Root Canal Treatment?
A root canal is a type of endodontic treatment that addresses inflammation inside the tooth.
A root canal treatment is different from a regular cavity filling because the latter only addresses decay on the tooth's surface. On the other hand, a root canal treats inflamed nerves deep on the inside.
A root canal is needed when the nerves in the innermost part of the tooth — called “the pulp” — get inflamed. The pulp is responsible for bringing oxygen and many other nutrients to the teeth. However, if tooth decay gets really bad, these nerves can get damaged and die as a result.
When the nerves inside the pulp die, they become feeding grounds for bacteria. Eventually, bacteria in the tooth can build up and lead to an infection that can become life-threatening if not treated in time.
Fortunately, a root canal treatment is an effective treatment that can not only save the tooth but prevent serious dental complications.
During a root canal, an endodontist will make an opening in the tooth, remove the inflamed nerves from inside the tooth, and carefully clean the area with a disinfecting solution. Once the bacteria is cleaned out, the endodontist will seal the tooth with a rubber-like material. If the damage to the tooth is significant, the endodontist can place a porcelain crown over it.
A root canal treatment can be completed in one or during several short visits. If the infection is severe, then your endodontist might need to disinfect the inside of the tooth several times before sealing it.
After a root canal, the treated tooth will function like any other tooth. With good oral hygiene, the treated tooth can last a lifetime.
Who Needs a Root Canal Treatment?
A root canal treatment is needed in most cases where there is significant pain, inflammation, and decay. If a root canal isn’t performed promptly, then a tooth abscess can be the result.
See your dentist as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Tooth or gum pain
- Extreme sensitivity to heat or cold
- Sudden tooth discoloration
- Pain when chewing or biting down
- Signs of tooth abscess (this usually looks like pus enclosed in the gum tissue)
- Swelling in the lymph nodes under your jaw
It’s important to note that a tooth infection can happen without any noticeable symptoms, which is usually the case when a nerve inside the tooth dies.
This makes it especially important to see your dentist for regular check-ups — so they can catch signs of tooth decay before it leads to something more serious.
What Happens During a Root Canal Treatment?
Millions of root canals are performed every year with a success rate as high as 99%. For this reason, a root canal treatment is generally nothing to worry about.
But to help calm any worries, here’s an overview of what happens during a root canal procedure:
Before performing the root canal, your dentist will have to make sure your teeth and gums are numb (otherwise, the procedure would be very painful). They will inject a local anesthetic into the affected area, which might feel very uncomfortable. Fortunately, the discomfort shouldn’t last more than 30 seconds.
After the area has been numbed, a dentist will place a thin piece of latex in the mouth. This will cover the rest of the mouth while isolating the infected tooth.
Once the preparations are done, the dentist will make a small opening in the tooth using a drill, forming a canal. Next, they will remove the infected nerves and apply an antibacterial solution inside the newly-formed canal.
After disinfecting the canal, your dentist will use a thin instrument to shape the canal inside the tooth. To remove any debris, the canal will be disinfected for a second time.
Once the canal is cleaned and shaped, your dentist will place a resin-like material inside it. This is important for restoring function to the tooth while keeping out any potential bacteria.
Depending on the degree of damage, your dentist might need to place a dental post in the tooth, which will effectively strengthen it. They may also place a temporary crown on top of the tooth while it heals.
When your root canal procedure is done, your doctor will send you home with an antibiotic prescription. You may feel some discomfort after the anesthesia wears off; however, this shouldn’t last more than a few hours.
If your tooth is severely damaged, your dentist might ask you to come in for a follow-up appointment to place a permanent dental crown over the treated tooth.
How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?
How much a root canal costs depends on which tooth is affected, with molar teeth typically having two or three canals — as opposed to just one.
Cost also depends on the complexity of the problem. If the infection is severe, then you might need several treatments to thoroughly clean the tooth of bacteria.
If you don’t have dental insurance, you can expect to pay approximately the following prices for a root canal:
- Root canal on a front tooth: Approximately $600 to $1,100.
- Root canal on premolar tooth: Approximately $700 to $1,300
- Root canal on molar teeth: Approximately $900 to $1,500
Does Insurance Cover a Root Canal Treatment?
In most cases, a root canal is considered a medically necessary procedure. For this reason, most health insurance plans will cover a root canal treatment.
However, depending on your health insurance plan, you might still be responsible for some of the cost of the treatment. Make sure to check your insurance plan’s deductibles and copays to know how much you’re responsible for paying.
In some cases, a health insurance plan may cover some parts of a root canal treatment — such as removal of the inflamed nerve — while making you responsible for other parts, like the crown.
In either case, dental insurance can still make a root canal more cost-effective than paying out-of-pocket.
So, what can you do if you don’t have dental insurance? Well, considering that a root canal is, very often, medically necessary, skipping this treatment may not be an option. However, it’s possible to find a low-cost dentist to perform this procedure.
Flossy has a network of dental professionals that provide services at a significant discount. If you need a root canal treatment, Flossy can find you a discount as high as 50% — so you don’t delay getting this important dental treatment.
Getting a Low-Cost Root Canal With Flossy
Many people have anxiety about getting a root canal. While the risks of an untreated root canal are pretty significant, the treatment itself is relatively painless, quick, and effective. If you get a root canal in time, you won’t only prevent serious medical complications but potentially save the life of your tooth.
If you don’t have dental insurance and are worried about paying for a root canal, Flossy can connect you with a dentist in our network of professionals.
Use our free app to make your first appointment today.
Complications of dental infections due to diagnostic delay during COVID-19 pandemic | BMJ Case Reports
Success or failure of endodontic treatments: A retrospective study | PMC
Dental Abscess | NCBI Bookshelf