Root canals get no respect. People seem to dread this treatment more than any other dental service. And no matter how often dentists tell us that root canals relieve pain, by clearing up a dental infection, somehow the information just isn’t getting through.
Thankfully, the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) is stubborn. They’ve been patiently celebrating National Root Canal Awareness week for 11 years now. This year the special week is May 7-13. Let the celebrations begin!
One of the AAE’s primary goals is to let people know that root canals should not be feared. The organization has created a new video to help people understand how advanced training, specialized techniques and new technologies used by endodontists help save teeth, but also make the process far less painful than expected.
Endodontists are dental specialists who perform root canal treatment and other endodontic procedures to treat dental infections, relieve pain and help patients keep their natural teeth. Fun fact: all endodontists are dentists, but less than three percent of dentists are endodontists.
Endodontists must complete at least 10 years of higher education, including four years of dental school and two to three years of specialty training after earning a dental degree. After they are licensed, they can perform routine and complex procedures, including root canal treatment, root canal retreatment and endodontic microsurgery.
Root Canal Awareness Week is also aimed at raising awareness of endodontists, so that patients and general dentists know to contact a specialist when root canal treatment is needed.
“If a patient is told that a tooth should be extracted, they should seek a second opinion from an endodontist, who may be able to save the tooth through root canal treatment,” said AAE President Dr. Garry Myers. “No tooth replacement will look, feel or function as well as a natural tooth.”
What Happens During A Root Canal?
An actual “root canal” is a tiny passageway deep inside your tooth. You may have three or more root canals per tooth, each containing nerves, blood vessels, and other soft pulp tissue. When the tissue inside the root canal is exposed to particular types of bacteria—often due to untreated decay or injury—it becomes infected and inflamed.
To stop the infection from spreading, the diseased tissue must be removed and the tooth sealed against reinfection. The goal of root canal treatment is to preserve the natural tooth. Ignore the problem, and the tooth may need to be extracted.
Root canal treatment is similar to having a cavity filled – yes, really. Your endodontist or dentist will use local anesthesia (such as a numbing shot) to make the process pain-free or nearly so. After the tooth is numbed, a small hole is made in the crown (hard chewing surface) to give access to the pulp (soft inner tissue). The infected tissue is removed with tiny instruments, and the canal is cleaned and disinfected. Finally, the root canal(s) are filled with inert material, and the hole in the tooth is closed so it can’t be re-infected.
I Can’t Afford A Root Canal
Root canals are expensive, about $700 per front tooth and $900 per molar. If you have significant damage to the tooth, due to decay or an accident that weakened the tooth, you may need to get a crown to fully restore function and your smile. A crown costs about $600-$750, depending on the location of the crown, the size needed, and the materials used to construct it. The average dental insurance policy covers $1000-$1500 annually, so a root canal can take a big chunk out of your coverage. Add in the cost of a crown, and you’ll probably near or exceed your annual limit.
You may be able to manage the pain of an infected tooth, but you can’t ignore the infection. The pain may eventually stop, temporarily, but without treatment, the infection will keep on going. It will eventually travel through the tooth’s roots and into the surrounding tissue, releasing toxins and damaging the tooth-supporting structures in the jaw. Left untreated, it can result in a gum abscess or a systemic infection; it can also cause tooth loss, along with its attendant problems. In some cases, severe tooth infections have resulted in death.
Don’t ignore a dental infection. Even if you think your budget doesn’t allow for dental care, you need to find a way to get that tooth treated. One great option is a dental savings plan, which can save you an average of 20%-50% on the cost of a root canal (and crown). Call the dental savings experts at DentalPlans.com to find a plan that can save you money on a root canal treatment, as well as reduce the costs of other dental care.