What is a root canal?

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You've probably heard all the terrifying rumors about root canals involving hours in excruciating pain...

You've probably heard all the terrifying rumors about root canals involving hours in excruciating pain with a dentist performing mad science. Sometimes just thinking about it can make your teeth hurt. If you find yourself asking, "What is a root canal, really?" this should answer some of your questions. What you should know now is that it usually is not as bad as some people may suggest.

When you may need a root canal

Usually root canals are performed when there is no other way to save the tooth. This is typically when the tooth is decaying or there is an infection that is spreading and worsening. In these cases, the tooth may fall out without intervention, and if there is an infection, the bacteria may spread to other teeth and cause more damage.

For many people, decay and infection are caused by poor dental health, but not always. Some infections happen when a cavity worsens and reaches deep inside the tooth. In some instances, a root canal may also be necessary if a tooth is chipped badly enough that it exposes the soft tissue (or pulp) that protects the nerve inside.

What happens during a root canal

Most root canals happen over the course of two or more days. Before the procedure starts, an X-ray is taken to determine the shape of the roots and the severity of the decay or infection and any resulting inflammation. If the problems seems severe, you may be referred to a specialist. Otherwise, your dentist will continue on with the procedure, usually at another appointment.

The area around the affected tooth is numbed. This is mostly done for your benefit, as the nerve inside the tooth is already dead. The main purpose the nerve serves after the tooth has grown is to help you feel hot and cold temperatures in your mouth. Your dentist will drill a hole down to the pulp chamber and begin to remove the pulp and nerve and clean out any infected or inflamed tissue from the chamber and the roots. A tool is then used to clearly shape the interior of the tooth for filling. A filling, usually gutta-percha, is then placed in the roots and chamber of the tooth. This will prevent any future infections.

Another filling is then placed over the gutta-percha to fill the hole your dentist made earlier until your tooth is fitted for a cap or crown. A custom-made cap is then placed on the tooth, sealing the opening and preventing any bacteria from entering the hole.

You can usually return to your normal life after a root canal, but the tooth may still feel sensitive and tender for a few days after the procedure. Dentists usually ask their patients to eat a balanced diet and brush and floss their teeth after each meal.

Possible complications

Root canals performed in Atlanta are usually successful, with very few reported complications. There is always a small risk of something happening post-procedure, however. In some circumstances, the tooth may not have been completely cleaned out, leaving a small trace of infected or inflamed tissue in the root or pulp chamber that grows and continues to infect the tooth. A small crack in the tooth root may occasionally go unnoticed and allow bacteria to enter the tooth. Using an inadequate sealant, or not sealing the tooth properly, may cause the sealant to deteriorate or wear down over time, allowing bacteria to seep through.

The cost of a root canal in Atlanta

Now that you know the answer to "What is a root canal?", you may want to know how much damage it may do to your wallet. The typical Atlanta dentist may charge around $800 for a molar root canal, depending on the severity. Root canals performed on other teeth usually cost less. Fortunately, most insurance companies cover root canals. You should check with your insurance company before scheduling an appointment. Remember to also ask your dentist if he accepts your insurance plan. If you must pay out-of-pocket for the procedure, many dentists offer a variety of payment plans to suit your particular budget.

Avoiding a root canal

Although there are some cases that require root canals that are unavoidable, you can usually take steps to make sure you never need one. The best way to avoid a root canal is through keeping up good dental hygiene. You may do this by brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing between each tooth just as frequently. Use mouthwash every time you brush to make sure any remaining particles are cleaned from your mouth. You should also eat a well-balanced diet that incorporates only a few sugary or sticky foods.


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