Your Guide to Root Canal Treatment

You're probably reading this page because your dentist or endodontist has said you need endodontic treatment. If so, you're not alone. More than 14 million teeth receive endodontic treatment each year. By choosing endodontic treatment, you are choosing to keep your natural teeth as a healthy foundation for chewing and biting for years to come. If you've never had endodontic treatment ( also known as a "root canal") or if it's been many years since your last procedure, you may have questions or outdated expectations. This page answers your questions and explains how today's endodontic treatment saves teeth. If you would like to know more, be sure to talk with your endodontist.

What is Endodontic Treatment?

"Endo" is the Greek word for "inside" and "odont" is Greek for "tooth." Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth. To understand endodontic treatment, it helps to know something about the anatomy of the tooth. Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a firm layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue that is called pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels and nerves and is the transmitter of sensations for the tooth.

During the formation of a tooth, the pulp is responsible for nourishing and creating the hard outer portions of the tooth, however, once a tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp, because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.

Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anaesthetics, patients typically report being comfortable during the procedure.

For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Follow Dr. Wolfson's instructions carefully.

Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain, pressure, or pain that lasts more than a few days, call Dr. Wolfson.

Who Performs Endodontic Treatment?

General dentists are qualified and able to perform endodontic treatments along with other dental procedures, but often they refer patients needing root canal therapy to specialists in the field of Endodontics. Endodontists have continued their formal education for an additional two years after they have obtained their license as a general dentist. They will limit their practice to both routine and complicated procedures that focus on saving your natural teeth when traumatic injury or infection has jeopardized the health of the internal nerve. The saving of a tooth is critical to preserving the bone of your jaw, the ability to chew as well as the support for adjacent teeth. As a foundation to being able to save a tooth, they are also well experienced in determining the cause of pain that has been difficult to diagnose.

What are the Alternatives to Endodontic Treatment?

When the pulp of a tooth is damaged, the only alternative to endodontic treatment is extraction of the tooth. To restore chewing function and to prevent adjacent teeth from shifting, the extracted tooth must be replaced with an implant or bridge. This requires surgery or dental procedures on adjacent healthy teeth and can be far more costly and time-consuming than endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth. No matter how effective modern tooth replacements are—and they can be very effective—nothing is as good as a natural tooth.

How Much will the Procedure Cost?

The cost varies depending on how severe the problem is and which tooth is affected. Molars are more difficult to treat and usually cost more. Most dental insurance policies provide coverage for endodontic treatment. Generally, endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth is less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth removed. An extracted tooth must be replaced with a bridge or implant to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost more than endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration.