FAQs About Root Canal Therapy

By Dr. Thomas Martin

Have you been advised to undergo root canal therapy (RCT)? News like this can hit hard, especially if you’ve only heard negative stories about root canals. 

“What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” was written in 1576 by a guy who must not have heard of dentistry, because what you don’t know can cause fear and anxiety, sometimes so much that a person doesn’t fight or flee, but remains mentally paralyzed. The truth is, if you truly need RCT and avoid the treatment, you’re in for more pain, more dental damage, greater expense for treatment, and potential overall health concerns. But knowing why you need RCT, how it’s performed, and what to expect in the procedure can bring peace of mind.

At Martin Dental Studio in Madison, TN, Dr. Thomas Martin uses high-tech tools for the diagnoses and treatments of dental issues. Patients with dental phobia or anxiety can opt for sedation dentistry, for total peace of mind and body during dental procedures. The Martin Dental Studio team understands patients’ concerns, so we prioritize educating our patients…because what you don’t know can hurt you.

https://youtu.be/bw1k-Nw8mBU?si=FRYC9tZRTjZCKimo 

Top 10 Questions and Answers About Root Canal Therapy

In today’s blog post, you’ll read some of the most commonly asked questions about RCT, from our patients and Google Search. If after reading this article you have additional questions, simply call our office. With no judgment, our team helps patients understand the reasons for root canal therapy, how the procedure works, and what to expect afterward.

What does root canal therapy do?

To help you understand RCT, take a look at the cross-section of a tooth on the left. You’ll see that our teeth are made up of layers. The outer enamel is the hardest substance created by the human body, and it protects all layers below it. Beneath the enamel, a porous layer of soft dentin allows sensations of temperature and pressure access to the tooth’s nerve.

Inside a sealed chamber within a tooth, the pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues. Blood vessels and nerves enter a tooth through canals that run through the root.

If a deep crack or cavity permeates a tooth to expose the core, bacteria will create an infection. As the bacterial infection grows, you may experience a toothache due to pressure building within the tooth’s core, pressing on the nerve. 

With root canal therapy, Dr. Martin removes bacterial infection and damaged tissues from within the tooth and thoroughly sanitizes the core and root canals. He then fills the tooth’s core and root canals with gutta percha, a manmade substance, making the tooth structurally sound. A filling or crown is placed to complete the procedure.

Will RCT get me out of pain fast?

The purpose of RCT is to re-establish health and functionality, as well as to eliminate the patient’s toothache. When the pressure-causing infection is eliminated and the tooth’s nerve is removed, the pain subsides. The tooth may be sore for a few days or a week. Patients can take over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief.

Who needs a root canal treatment?

Anyone with a deep tooth crack or cavity, in which the tooth’s core has been compromised by infection, needs RCT.

How painful is a root canal procedure?

Dr. Martin and our team have an arsenal of comfort-inducing techniques ranging from educating patients on what treatment entails and maintaining a gentle chairside manner, to providing noise-cancelling headphones and sedation dentistry. Some discomfort should be expected, but ultimately RCT alleviates pain. 

What if I need RCT but don’t have it?

Untreated infection within a tooth will travel into the bloodstream. An abscess may form at the tooth’s root tip. If the infection affects the jawbone and gums, affected tissues will die and need to be removed, along with the infection. Without treatment, you risk losing not only your tooth but also your jawbone. In extreme cases, a patient with an infected tooth can have a stroke, sepsis, or heart attack. Additionally, the toothache becomes unbearable. 

What is the alternative to RCT?

You can opt for an extraction (removal of the infected tooth) rather than undergoing root canal therapy. Talk with Dr. Martin about options before deciding on treatment.

Is it cheaper to have a tooth pulled than to get a root canal?

If good oral and overall health is the goal, an extracted tooth will need to be replaced by a bridge or dental implant. 

To compensate for the workload of chewing, the remaining teeth will shift into the empty socket’s space. This can negatively affect occlusion (how upper and lower teeth fit together) and lead to TMJ disorder, bruxism (clenching and grinding teeth), and cosmetic concerns.

Taking into consideration that a pulled tooth needs replacement, a root canal isn’t more expensive than an extraction.

How long does a root canal procedure take?

Generally, RCT takes two appointments if a dental crown is required. Treatment is performed in the first visit, and a filling or temporary crown is placed in/on the tooth. Dr. Martin will order a custom-fitted crown from our trusted laboratory, and when it arrives, you’ll return for the placement of the permanent crown.

Does root canal therapy always work?

About 90% of root canal treatments allow the affected tooth to survive for a decade or longer. Dr. Martin has an excellent track record with root canal therapy, but should a problem arise after any dental treatment, simply call our office. 

Will my dental insurance pay for root canal therapy?

Many dental plans pay up to 50% of the cost for root canal therapy, but check your policy to learn the details of your coverage. If you have trouble understanding the coverage, call us. Our insurance experts can usually answer dental insurance questions, and they’ll work to find you an answer if necessary.

If you don’t have dental insurance or need help covering the cost of your copay and deductible, we recommend CareCredit patient financing. CareCredit offers low- and no-interest loans to qualifying applicants.

Schedule Your Second Opinion or Exam Today

If you’ve been told by a dentist that you need root canal therapy, but you aren’t entirely confident in the diagnosis and treatment recommendation, call Dr. Martin for a second opinion. Perhaps you’re experiencing an increasingly painful toothache on a previously filled or crowned tooth, and you suspect infection. Give us a call for a complete oral exam, diagnosis, and answers to all of your questions.

Schedule your appointment today by calling our Madison dental office at 615-865-2260. We are accepting new patients now!