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Root Canal Therapy

A root canal is a tooth-saving treatment performed to clear the mouth of bacteria and infections. Below the roots of a tooth lies the inner pulp chamber, which houses a collection of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When a tooth becomes damaged or weakened by decay, bacteria can penetrate the dental pulp and cause inflammation, infection, or even an abscess. Root canal therapy is among the most effective treatments to not only alleviate pain caused by a tooth infection, but also to save a damaged tooth from extraction. Dr. Landon Libby and our Mission Valley dental team use gentle techniques and compassionate patient care to clean infected regions of the mouth, and restore the health of your damaged tooth.

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What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a procedure designed to remove infected or diseased tissue from the root of a tooth. Sometimes known as “endodontics,” a root canal is typically performed when tooth decay, cracks in the tooth, or deep cavities create an infection or abscess in the inner dental pulp. Once a tooth becomes infected, a root canal is often the only way to rid the tooth of inflamed or infected tissue, cleanse the pulp chamber, and save a tooth from extraction. Contrary to common dental myths, root canal therapy typically involves very little discomfort for most patients — a root canal can even bring you relief by resolving the pain of an infection!

Signs of an Infected Tooth

In addition to poor oral hygiene, other factors like smoking, an injury to the tooth structure, or issues with a previously treated cavity can cause the underlying dental pulp to become inflamed. Untreated, this inflammation can turn into a debilitating infection. Common signs of an infected tooth generally include:

  • Sharp, throbbing, or aching pain — especially when biting
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures in the mouth
  • A persistent bad taste in the mouth
  • Discoloration or pimples on the gums
  • Redness, bleeding, soreness, or inflammation 
  • Fever symptoms

A tooth infection will never heal on its own. In fact, failing to address a potential infection can worsen the damage and allow the infection to spread to other parts of the body, such as the jaw, neck, and head. While living with an abscess or an infected tooth can make it difficult to perform even simple daily tasks, rest assured that our team is ready to help alleviate your pain by developing an endodontic treatment plan designed to resolve your symptoms and restore a clean, healthy mouth.  

Do I Need a Root Canal?

A root canal is considered a medically necessary procedure to treat damage caused by the inner portion of a tooth — known as the dental pulp — becoming infected, injured, or inflamed. That said, patients in need of root canal therapy generally experience one or more of the symptoms listed above, which can signify an infected tooth. You may be at a larger risk for a root canal if you:

  • Have deep or widespread decay
  • Received multiple dental procedures on the same tooth
  • Have cracks in a tooth accompanied by one or more of the above symptoms

Our friendly dental team will listen to your concerns and evaluate your teeth and gums to determine whether an infection is present. We understand that the prospect of a root canal can be intimidating to some patients, but rest assured that our compassionate dentists will work meticulously to alleviate your symptoms and treat any inflammation present with gentleness and ease.

How is the Root Canal Procedure Performed?

Nowadays, root canal therapy can be performed more gently and comfortably than ever. Prior to treating your tooth, the affected area is numbed with a local anesthetic. Our dentist can discuss sedation dentistry options with you further if desired, but most patients generally report little to no discomfort during treatment. Special instruments are then used to disinfect and sterilize the pulp chamber of bacteria. Once the infection is cleared, the root canals and pulp chamber will be sealed and a temporary filling will be placed. Patients then return for a follow-up appointment to obtain a permanent filling or a dental crown, thereby restoring the full integrity of your tooth. This should make it much easier to chew and bite, as well as help protect the tooth from further infection.

Is There a Recovery Period After Root Canal Therapy?

A root canal doesn’t require a lengthy recovery period, although your teeth and gums may feel swollen, tender, or sore once the numbing medication wears off. This discomfort can be easily managed with over-the-counter pain medications and should subside soon after your root canal. Patients can typically resume normal activities the following day, although you should avoid chewing on the side of your mouth where the treated tooth is located — at least until your temporary restoration is replaced with a permanent fixture. Dr. Libby will schedule a follow-up visit with you a few days after treatment to ensure no infected tissue remains. At this time, he will also replace your temporary filling or crown with a permanent restoration to help you reclaim a strong, healthy tooth.

How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?

A root canal is a necessary procedure that removes diseased tissue from the mouth; therefore, dental insurance may provide coverage for part or all of the costs of treatment. We encourage you to check your individual policy to learn whether your insurance plan covers root canal therapy. Part of your cost estimate may include the price of the restoration placed on your damaged tooth after treatment, which is typically a tooth-colored filling or a dental crown.

During your appointment, our office will be able to inform you of dental financing options for all out-of-pocket costs so you can find the most affordable solution for your needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact our practice in Mission Valley if you have any questions about the costs associated with a root canal.

Does a Root Canal Hurt?

Despite prevailing beliefs about a root canal, most patients do not report pain during their treatment. In fact, root canal therapy is actually designed to alleviate the pain of an infected tooth and patients are often eager to have the affected area treated. Our dentists also apply a local anesthetic to the region prior to treatment to further improve patient comfort. At Libby Dental, we strive to make your experience as stress-free and pleasant as possible, and can utilize sedation dentistry options if necessary. Please don’t hesitate to speak to our team about your needs so we can enhance your visit as much as possible.

Our team at Libby Dental understands how painful and uncomfortable it can be to live with a tooth infection. Our dentists employ gentle methods to rid the mouth of bacteria, sterilize the pulp chamber, and reclaim a healthy, fully functioning tooth. Please contact our Mission Valley office if you have any questions, or if you would like to have your tooth examined by Dr. Libby.