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Root canal: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: May 15, 2024

What is the treatment?

Root canal treatment is an often straightforward procedure to relieve dental pain and save your teeth. Root canal treatment (endodontics) is a dental procedure used to treat infection at the centre of a tooth (the root canal system). The infection is caused by bacteria that live in the mouth and invade the tooth. This can happen after: tooth decay, leaky fillings, damage to teeth as a result of trauma, such as a fall.

Root canal treatment (RCT) and endodontic treatment are the more correct terms for a procedure that treats the nerve of the tooth. Endodontics is a specialty of dentistry that deals specifically with the tooth pulp and tissues surrounding the root of the tooth. A root canal problem may be treated by a general dentist or by an endodontist. An endodontist is a dentist who has gone to multiple years of specialty training after dental school to focus exclusively on root canal treatments. General dentists are qualified to perform root canals but may refer a patient to an endodontist if the tooth is particularly complicated or is being treated for the second time.

Endodontic therapy, also known as endodontic treatment or root canal therapy, is a treatment sequence for the infected pulp of a tooth which results in the elimination of infection and the protection of the decontaminated tooth from future microbial invasion. Root canals, and their associated pulp chamber, are the physical hollows within a tooth that are naturally inhabited by nerve tissue, blood vessels and other cellular entities. Together, these items constitute the dental pulp.

How is the treatment done?

The procedure involves removing the damaged area of the tooth (the pulp) and cleaning and disinfecting it, then filling and sealing it. Root canal treatment consists of a number of steps that take place over several office visits, depending on the situation. These steps are: The endodontist examines and x-rays the tooth, and then local anesthesia is administered to the affected tooth. A dental dam is usually placed over the affected tooth to isolate it and keep it free from saliva. The endodontist makes an opening through the back of a front tooth or the crown of a molar or pre-molar to remove the diseased pulp, called a pulpectomy. Next, the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned and shaped in preparation for a filling. The endodontist fills the root canal with gutta percha material. If more than one visit is needed, a temporary filling is placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits. The temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal are permanently filled with gutta percha into each of the canals and is sealed in place with cement. Sometimes a metal or plastic rod is placed in the canal for structural support. In the final step, a crown is usually placed over the tooth to restore its natural shape and appearance. If the tooth is broken, a post may be required to build it up prior to placing a crown.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Root Canal Treatment is unavoidable when the nerve or blood supply of the tooth is infected through decay or injury. The root canal procedure is performed to save a damaged or badly infected tooth, instead of extracting it. The most common causes of tooth damage or infection are, cavities occurring due to plaque accumulation, cracked or broken tooth due to any accidents or trauma, gum diseases, and repeated dental treatment to a particular tooth. These issues can cause pulp inflammation, infection and damage the pulp irreversibly. The person will at times experience excruciating pain. The pain may subside when the pulp dies, but very often returns as the infection spreads.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Information not available
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Are there any side effects?

In some cases there is a possibility of some side effects or re-occurrence of pain. Some after effects of root canal treatment are listed below in detail.

Slight Discoloration of tooth : As nerve is removed from tooth it causes slight discoloration. And in most cases as a crown is required after root canal treatment this discoloration is never visible.

Reduced capability of treated tooth : As tooth structure is slightly weakened after Root canal treatment, it will not have its original capabilities. And it at slightly higher risk of tooth fractures compared to other tooth. Those who have tooth with Root canal treatment, should avoid eating hard food like almonds, or use other teeth to eat them.

Root canal treatment itself may fail : Root canal treatment can fail in around 5% patient. This will lead to extraction of tooth. Such failure mostly occurs because of unknown reason and it is unavoidable.

Infection : Root canal treated tooth may become infected like other teeth.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Below is a quick guide to making sure that the affected tooth heals quickly and returns to its normal function: Swelling, tenderness, and pain on and near the affected area are normal occurrences during the first few days following treatment. Such signs are actually indicators of your body undergoing the natural healing process. Keep in mind that pain medications may cause you to be more drowsy than usual so caution should be exercised when operating heavy machinery or when driving.

Do not attempt to bite or chew on the treated tooth until your dentist tells you that it has completely healed.

Brush and floss as you normally would, but avoid the area near the affected tooth.

Stick to a soft food diet until normal teeth function has been restored.

How long does it take to recover?

Root canals are extremely successful, and can bring real relief to a painful tooth. However, there will probably be some tenderness in and around the tooth for a few days, and perhaps even a few weeks (for most folks, it’s not very long) Remember, you just got a tooth hollowed out -- it may be sensitive for a short while. In most cases, this goes away after a few days/weeks.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The cost of root canal varies from clinic to clinic deoebding upon the infrastructure, vincity,Doctor's Experience, Qualification etc. Normaly Price starts from INR 2000 and go upto 8000. Post root canal you require a crown which is excluded in your treatment cost, the crown pricing starts at 1500.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

A treated and restored tooth can last a lifetime with proper care. Root canals have a high success rate.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Here are the alternatives: Extraction -- less expensive on short run, and very expensive long term.

Do nothing -- the tooth may eventually become un-restorable, more infected, calcified, which may end up in tooth loss or higher costs;

Implant -- not really an alternative in cases when root canal procedure can be performed because it is often more expensive. Implants are only good when root canal treatment is not possible due to extensive root decay, large fractures, severe calcification; it is not a good alternative if previous root canal treatment did not succeed.

Some dentists are ok with trying a very large filling instead of a root canal (although most won't, because the success rate is not high.)

Pulp capping offers an alternative to root canal treatments. If the tooth's nerve is still alive, pulp capping can be used to restrict the tooth decay from infiltrating the pulp chamber.

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Written ByDr. Vikram Singh AtwalPCAD,MCID Implant,BDS,Advanced AestheticsDentistry
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