Endodontic treatment is a broader term for treatment or procedures for addressing infected dental pulp, the collection of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue within the tooth that keeps it alive and healthy, particularly during development. Dental pulp can become infected in a number of ways, but usually as a result of bacteria that has entered the tooth through something like an untreated cavity, a broken crown, or a chip.
The roots or dental pulp of your teeth can also become damaged, infected, or inflamed from trauma or injury to the tooth from a collision or accident. If the tooth is still developing, this inflammation can actually halt its growth.
Endodontists specialize in performing root canals and other procedures necessary for saving dental pulp and tooth roots, such as endodontic surgery, restoring damage from a traumatic injury, and sometimes dental implants.
Your dentist may also determine you need treatment through a routine oral exam and dental x-ray because sometimes you could have a problem even if you are not experiencing any signs or symptoms. If an x-ray reveals additional canals or crevices that are or may become infected, you may need a procedure to restore the entire tooth.
Depending on the severity of your infection, you may need more than one appointment for full treatment. Most people will need at least two—one to clean the tooth of infection and seal it with a temporary filling, and one for a final filling or dental crown.
Most endodontic treatments are performed with at least a local anesthetic, so you will not feel any pain during the procedure itself. Afterward, your treated tooth or teeth may feel tender or sensitive, but not painful, and any discomfort should subside within a few days. You can use over-the-counter medication like anti-inflammatories and follow a soft diet to manage your discomfort, but if the pain is severe or persists, you should contact your dentist right away to make sure no complications have developed.
Root canals are the most common type of nonsurgical endodontic treatment. During a root canal, the infected pulp is cleaned out of the affected tooth and replaced with a filling. The filling seals off the root canal and prevents bacteria from getting inside the tooth again. Then the tooth is often capped by a dental crown to further protect it.
Endodontic retreatment is used to treat a tooth that has already had a root canal, but is now experiencing other problems as a result of improper healing, contamination inside the tooth, delayed placement of the crown or restoration after the first procedure, new decay, or a damaged tooth. During retreatment, the tooth is reopened and the filling removed. The tooth is re-examined, carefully cleaned, and then sealed with a new filling.
Endodontic surgery may be necessary if the infected tooth cannot be saved by other nonsurgical options but does not need to be extracted. During endodontic surgery, the doctor can find small fractures or hidden canals that don’t show up on a dental x-ray but may be harboring infection or calcium deposits.
The most common type of endodontic surgery is an apicoectomy. Unlike a root canal, which treats inflammation and infection deep in the dental pulp of the tooth, an apicoectomy—also called a root-end resection—only treats the tip of the tooth’s root. It is usually performed after a root canal to fix the root of the tooth or the tissues around it, and commonly used to treat tooth injuries in children because by removing only the damaged tissue, the tooth can be saved from extraction.
During an apicoectomy, any infected gum or bone tissue is removed, as well as the very end of the root of your tooth, through an incision in the gums, leaving the top of your tooth intact but ensuring all traces of infection are gone. The root canal may then be sealed with a filling, then the gums sutured or stitched to heal.
Dental implants may be necessary if the infected tooth cannot be saved at all and must be extracted. Dental implants consist of tiny metal screws inserted into the jaw to serve as tooth roots and artificial teeth that are then connected to those screws with abutments.
However, endodontists are often capable of saving even the most severely damaged and infected teeth, so if your dentist is recommending extraction, it may be worth it to see a specialist like an endodontist first, just for a second opinion.
The cost of an endodontic procedure will depend largely on the severity of your condition. A complex problem with many sources of infection that requires more extensive procedures will likely cost more than a simple root canal. The location of the tooth affected—back teeth are more difficult to work on than front teeth or bicuspids, and front teeth only have one root, while molars can have up to three—and the level of difficulty associated with the treatment can also impact how much your treatment costs.
However, putting off endodontic treatment because of cost will not save you anything in the long run. Waiting for treatment can allow the infection to spread, creating a bigger problem, so what may have been a simple, relatively inexpensive fix with a filling now becomes a costly crown or an extraction. Not treating an infected tooth at all can lead to even more serious conditions with your overall health, beyond losing the tooth; untreated infections could result in bone loss in your jaw, a dental abscess, or even a stroke, heart attack, or sepsis.
At Bright Now! Dental, we believe no one should go without the critical dental care they need because of cost, and that includes endodontic treatment like root canals. In addition to flexible financing and payment options, we also accept nearly all major dental insurance plans, most of which will cover part or all of endodontic treatment. Don’t have insurance? We offer our own OneSmile Dental plan, giving members free dental exams and x-rays and 20%-40% off all dental services for one low annual fee.
Bright Now! Dental is your partner for a lifetime of good dental health, offering comprehensive dental services—including endodontic treatment—at all of our convenient retail locations. With extended hours, flexible scheduling, and even weekend appointment times at some offices, we make it easy and affordable for you and your family to receive quality, professional dental care that fits both your schedule and your budget. Find the Bright Now! Dental location nearest you and schedule an appointment today!