What is root canal therapy? Root canal (endodontic) therapy removes all infected, inflamed pulp tissue from the internal roots of your tooth. The roots are then cleaned and shaped for filling.  Your family dentist may elect to place a crown on the tooth to protect it.

Why do I need an endodontic procedure? Inflammation or infection of the tooth's pulp can be caused by decay, repeated dental procedures, a crack or chip in the tooth, or traumatic injury.  If left untreated, it can lead to pain or an abscess.  Symptoms may include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling and tenderness in the gums.  Sometimes there are no symptoms.

Is the procedure painful? Your endodontist has extensive training to complete your root canal therapy in a comfortable manner. If you need treatment, a small amount of anesthetic will be injected at the site to prevent any discomfort.

What can I expect after the appointment? Your tooth may feel tender for a few days after treatment and may continue to feel a little different for a while. You may relieve any discomfort by carefully following your endodontist's instructions for over-the-counter or prescription medications.  A small percentage of patients may experience pain or pressure lasting more than a few days; if this happens, please call your endodontist.

Will I need another appointment? Depending on the time allotted, your root canal treatment may be finished in one appointment.  Occasionally treatment will be scheduled on a different date after your consultation. Complicated cases may require two appointments. Successfully treated teeth usually last as long as your natural teeth; however, new decay, trauma, or fracture can cause a new infection in your tooth which requires additional root canal treatment.

What are the alternatives? Most teeth can be endodontically treated, but occasionally a tooth cannot be saved if the canals are not accessible, the root is fractured, or there is not adequate bone support. Endodontic surgery may be an option.  Occasionally, the only alternative is extraction.

How much will it cost? The cost of a root canal treatment differs depending on which tooth is affected—molars are more difficult to treat.  Most dental insurances provide coverage for treatment. Restoration of your natural tooth can be less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth extracted and replaced with a bridge or implant.