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Root Canals: Q & A

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When your dentist tells you that you may need a root canal, you may be less than excited. However, a root canal may be the only way to keep your tooth. Here are a few questions and answers about root canals to help you understand the process:

What is a root canal?

A root canal is an endodontic procedure in which your dentist removes the living material from inside your tooth. This material, which is called pulp, contains the dental nerves of the tooth. When the pulp is excised, the pain and discomfort associated with the tooth is alleviated. 

Once the dentist has removed all of the pulp, he or she will disinfect the tooth and fill it with a dental composite material. The composite helps reinforce the hollow tooth and protect the interior from bacterial invasion. A dental crown is fitted and added for additional support, protection and beautification.

Why is a root canal performed?

If your dental nerve becomes inflamed due to irritation from a dental abscess, infection or over exposure to tooth bleaching agents, the nerve may be irreparably damaged. In order to stop the pain and discomfort without extracting the tooth, the dental nerve and pulp of the tooth must be removed. 

What symptoms indicate you may need a root canal?

Discomfort is usually the first sign that you may need a root canal. Here is a list of symptoms that may indicate a dental infection or dental nerve inflammation:

  • Throbbing toothache
  • Extreme gum tenderness around a specific tooth
  • A lump on the gums
  • Oozing, foul-smelling liquid from the gums
  • Dental sensitivity to cold and heat

Does a root canal hurt?

Your dentist will likely numb the area around your tooth by placing a topical anesthetic medication on a cotton swab and leaving it in place for a few moments. After the swab is removed, local anesthesia can be injected into the gums around the tooth.

You may not feel the injection at all due to the initial numbing. However, you may experience a slight pinch if the gums have not been fully numbed. The injected medication prevents you from feeling any pain as the root canal is performed.

How much does a root canal cost?

The cost of a root canal depends largely on the location of the tooth. 

  • Front tooth: $300 to $1,500
  • Bicuspid or Premolar: $400 to $1,800
  • Back molar: $500 to $2,000

A root canal can be performed in two dental visits. However, it is frequently completed in one. If you are scheduled to have a root canal, consult with your dentist for detailed information about your specific procedure.