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The Ins and Outs of Root Canal Treatment

You’ve probably heard the horror stories about root canals. Fortunately, modern endodontic treatments are more comfortable than ever. Thanks to the latest technology and anesthetic/sedation options, your root canal therapy can be just as easy as getting a routine filling. 

What is Endodontic Therapy?

Endodontic treatment — more commonly known as “root canal therapy” — is a type of procedure that involves removing a dying or infected nerve from inside of a tooth. Once the nerve canal is cleaned and medicated, your dentist seals it off with a filling material to prevent reinfection. The entire process is like getting a filling that extends through the root all the way to the tip, instead of just the top part above your gums.

Depending on which tooth is being treated, there may be one, two, or three roots that have to be cleaned and sealed off. Front teeth have one root, back teeth have two, and upper back teeth have three. The more roots there are, along with any atypical anatomy (such as a curved root,) the more complex the procedure is. 

Reasons Why Teeth Need Root Canals

Your dentist may suggest getting a root canal if you’ve experienced one of the following situations:

  • Deep tooth decay that extends into the nerve of a tooth
  • Large fractures or cracks in teeth
  • Past trauma, causing the tooth to die
  • Severe pain
  • Abscessed teeth
  • Teeth whose roots are starting to resorb (shrink)
  • Failing root canals that were previously performed 

Getting a root canal treats your tooth from the inside, rather than covering it from the outside. When a filling or crown (cap) would trap deep infection inside of a tooth, a root canal removes the inner infection and repairs the tooth from the inside-out. 

After Endodontic Treatment

Almost every endodontically treated tooth will need to have a crown put over it. Yes, the infection is removed, but now your tooth is non-vital and more brittle than ever. Since it’s susceptible to chipping and wear more than a healthy tooth, a crown will protect it from the everyday chewing and biting that you’re going to put it through.

You’ll need to brush and floss your tooth, even if it’s had a root canal. While the inside of the tooth is treated, the outside margins along your crown are still susceptible to cavities just like all of your other teeth are. 

What if You Don’t Treat the Tooth at All?

There’s always the option of not getting your tooth treated. Unfortunately, turning down dental care does have consequences. When you need a root canal but can’t — or won’t — get the tooth repaired, it will continue to fail and possibly spread infection to neighboring teeth. In some cases, children with untreated abscessed teeth have been put in the hospital and suffered from brain infections and even death.

Eventually, an abscessed or dead tooth will need to be extracted if you don’t plan on getting a root canal. You might feel free of the pain for once, but now you’re left with another problem: an empty space. That extra room can cause a chain of events to occur, namely your other teeth starting to shift and move around. Now you’re not just missing a tooth, you’re left with misaligned teeth throughout the rest of your mouth.

Fixing these problems will usually wind up costing more than it would have to get the root canal to begin with. 

Who Can Perform a Root Canal?

Root canals are usually completed by your general family dentist, or an endodontist. Endodontists are specialists that have additional training in treating the nerves of teeth. If you have a more challenging tooth that needs to be treated — or retreated — then there’s a good chance that your dentist will refer you to an endodontic expert. It’s not that general dentists aren’t trained for the job; but an endodontist specializes in this procedure and has advanced tools that can help him or her complete larger treatments in less time (making it far more comfortable for you, as the patient.)

But what if you don’t have insurance to cover the treatment, let alone the higher price of seeing an Endodontist? A great option is to sign up for an Aetna dental plan like the ones at Aetna Dental Offers. You can save 15-50% off of treatments like root canals, even if they’re performed by a specialist. But unlike traditional insurance, an Aetna savings plan has no annual spending limits. Join today to start saving.

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