When the inner pulp of a tooth becomes severely damaged or diseased, root canal therapy may be necessary in order to restore the tooth and prevent the need for extraction.
Many patients do not understand the treatment options for seriously decayed or infected teeth, and assume that having the tooth removed is easier. At the Office of Dr. Bellisario, saving your natural teeth is always preferable to extracting a damaged tooth and replacing it with a dental implant or dental bridge.
The Benefits of Tooth Preservation
According to the American Association of Endodontists, over 40 million teeth are extracted every year, despite the fact that many of them could have been saved through root canal treatment.
Although root canal therapy may cost more than tooth extraction, many people forget that the removed tooth must also be replaced through a separate procedure (dental implants, dental bridges, or dentures). With this in mind, the total cost of a root canal procedure is less than the tooth extraction and replacement process.
The Root Canal Process
In the past, root canals have had a reputation for being painful procedures. However, with today’s techniques and dental technology, root canals can be performed in a way that causes little to no discomfort.
Local anesthetic is used to numb the tooth, and a small access hole is created to remove the decayed nerve tissue, bacteria, and related debris inside your tooth. Once this step is complete, your inner tooth will be thoroughly cleaned and sealed.
At most, you can expect some residual soreness during the first 48 hours after treatment. Dr. Bellisario can recommend an over-the-counter medication to control this discomfort.
Dr. Bellisario performs the majority of root canals in-house. However, if your case is especially complex and requires more advanced numbing techniques, we may refer you to a trusted endodontic specialist in the area.
How Long Does a Root Canal Procedure Take?
It really depends on the exact case. In broad terms, a root canal treatment may require anywhere from 30-90 minutes. We know our patients have busy lives and full schedules. At the time of your consultation, we will be able to provide you with a more accurate time estimate once your treatment has been planned. That way, you will have plenty of time to plan your calendar accordingly.
When is a Root Canal Procedure Necessary?
A root canal treatment may be necessary if infection or inflammation has reached the tooth pulp, which is tissue containing blood vessels and nerves. This innermost layer of your tooth lies below the enamel and dentin.
Who is a Candidate for a Root Canal?
Candidates for this therapy have infected and/or inflamed tooth pulp, which may have been caused by:
- Cracked tooth
- Weakened or vulnerable tooth
- Broken or loose dental crown or filling
While a cavity infects the pulp directly, broken enamel or a damaged crown that exposes the pulp leave it vulnerable to infectious agents.
How Should I Prepare for a Root Canal?
We know many patients feel nervous about the day of their treatment. We assure you we do everything to prioritize your comfort and safety, in addition to providing effective results. Our staff makes sure you know how to best prepare for the appointment, such as:
- Avoiding alcohol and tobacco the day and evening before
- Getting plenty of quality sleep the night before
- Hydrating the day prior
- Eating a complete meal the day of
- Taking any medication as directed by the dentist or doctor
- Skipping certain medications as directed by the dentist or doctor
Unlike surgery, a root canal doesn’t generally require skipping meals. In fact, we recommend eating in the hours before the appointment so you aren’t overly hungry afterward. Your mouth will be numb for a little while after the treatment, so eating can pose the risk of biting your lips, tongue, or cheek.
What is the Recovery Process like After a Root Canal Procedure?
The recovery from a modern root canal procedure is fairly easy and fast. Once the numbness wears off, you are likely to experience mild soreness and discomfort. Most of the time, this post-op pain is easily handled with an over-the-counter medication. Stronger medications may be prescribed in certain circumstances. The discomfort will go away after a few days. Call our office if you feel like the discomfort is worsening.
You can eat like normal once the numbness fades; however, avoid chewing on the treated tooth. You should be especially cautious with hard, chewy, and crunchy food until the permanent tooth crown or other restoration is placed.
It will be important to brush and floss like normal to keep both the treatment area and your whole mouth clean. Clean gently around the treated tooth. We will provide you with tips for how to brush the area.
Although you can mostly get back to routine activities right away, you may want to take it easy for a day or two. Because local anesthetic is used, you could theoretically drive yourself home from the appointment, but we always recommend having a family member or friend do the driving for you. The post-treatment experience can be a little distracting when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.
Take a few days off from strenuous exercise. Getting your heart rate up during this time can cause the area to bleed more. Discuss your specific activity routines with Dr. Bellisario so he can provide custom recommendations.
Are Root Canals Covered by Insurance?
Many dental insurance policies offer coverage of a percentage of the cost of a root canal procedure. Our front office staff is happy to work with your insurance company so that they can provide you a pre-treatment estimate. We will also submit forms to the insurer. It’s important to note that it is unlikely that insurance will cover the full cost, plus you must verify whether you have reached your yearly maximum (if applicable). Please note that payment is due at the time of service.
If you have further questions about root canal therapy and other treatment options to save damaged teeth, please contact The Office of Dr. Bellisario through our online form or call 610-642-7024 today to schedule your personal consultation. We welcome patients from Ardmore, Havertown, Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, Bala Cynwyd, and the rest of the Main Line area of Pennsylvania.