What is a Root Canal?

Root canal therapy is a restorative dental solution used to save teeth that are affected by severe damage or decay. Due to factors like an untreated tooth injury, poor oral hygiene, or gum disease, the nerves and roots of a tooth can become vulnerable to excessive bacteria buildup. This bacteria can inflame the tooth’s underlying dental pulp and cause a painful infection or an abscess to form, potentially necessitating removal of the affected tooth. Because an extracted tooth can lead to additional problems, such as a loss in jawbone density and the shifting of surrounding teeth, it is pivotal to clear away the infection and save the tooth from dying. An untreated tooth infection can pose serious threats to an individual’s oral health, immune system, and general well-being, making swift dental treatment essential.

Fortunately, root canal therapy is designed to prevent the further spread of infection or inflammation by removing bacteria from the root canal, addressing the infected tissue, and sterilizing and sealing the nerve chamber. The procedure can ultimately save the affected tooth and alleviate the intense pain caused by an infection. After the infection is removed, the tooth structure can be reinforced with a custom-designed zirconium crown or dental filling designed to blend in naturally with your surrounding teeth. Our Eureka dentists place patient comfort as their top priority and will do everything in their power to restore the health of a damaged tooth and prevent an extraction.

We encourage you to follow the links below to learn more about how patients with an infected tooth can benefit from a root canal:

How Do I Know if I Need a Root Canal?

As soon as a patient realizes their tooth has become infected, treating the infection with root canal therapy is critical. There are many factors that can signify a tooth infection, but the most common symptom is severe pain in or around the affected tooth. Other signs may include:

  • Development of an abscess, which may be exhibited through redness, heat, swelling, or discharge around the tooth
  • Extreme sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Problems chewing
  • Discoloration in the affected tooth
  • A constant bad taste in the mouth
  • Inflammation or tenderness in the gums

It should also be noted that an infected tooth may not exhibit any symptoms at all. For this reason, patients should always undergo regular dental check-ups in order to detect a possible infection before the tooth suffers additional damage.

Root Canal Procedure

After a thorough consultation to confirm that root canal therapy is an appropriate treatment for you, our dentist will create a treatment plan to eliminate the infection and save the damaged tooth from extraction. During the procedure, the infected or inflamed tissue will be removed from the nerve chamber, which will then be cleansed, disinfected, and sealed. After this process is complete, the tooth structure can be strengthened with a dental crown or tooth-colored filling from our cosmetic dentists to improve both the appearance and function of the tooth.

While individuals may have anxiety surrounding the procedure, patients typically report that root canal therapy involves no more discomfort than any other restorative dentistry treatment. In fact, patients are usually very relieved that the pain from their infected tooth has been alleviated. Our dentists have your needs in mind through every step of the process and can perform the procedure with the highest levels of care to minimize any possible discomfort.

How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

The length of the root canal process depends on factors unique to your treatment plan, including whether the affected tooth has been treated before, where the infected tooth resides, and—if an abscess exists—the size of the abscess. In general, root canal therapy can be completed in a same-day procedure depending on the severity of the infection. Treatment times do not usually exceed 90 minutes. In some cases, your dentist may wait a brief period of time before applying a restoration to ensure inflammation is reduced and the tooth is free of pain. In these circumstances, another appointment may be required to complete the sealing process or reinforce the tooth structure with a dental crown or filling. You will be made fully aware of the details of your procedure prior to beginning treatment.

What is Root Canal Recovery Like?

There is typically minimal recovery necessary after the root canal procedure. You can usually return to normal daily activities immediately, although your mouth will feel temporarily numb as the anesthetic wears off and the affected area may feel tender for a few days. With this in mind, patients should avoid chewing on the treated tooth until tenderness subsides so that the surrounding tissues can heal properly. Any post-treatment discomfort can be managed well with oral pain medications.

Once fully rehabilitated, the tooth should function normally; if you are experiencing severe pressure after a few days, visible swelling, or have an uneven bite, it is important to contact Dr. Eric Klumb or Dr. Mike Menolascino as soon as possible. Taking care of your teeth and gums with daily brushing and flossing habits as well as routine dental care check-ups will help ensure the success of your endodontic procedure.

Will I Have Pain After Root Canal Therapy?

After root canal therapy, pain and other symptoms caused by an infected tooth should be resolved, and patients can enjoy the renewed health of their tooth. This is a very common procedure that has saved countless individuals from having their tooth extracted. Endodontic treatment generally allows patients to prevent tooth and bone loss, retain their natural smile, continue eating the foods they enjoy, and reduce their risk of infection-related health concerns.

How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?

The cost of a root canal is usually largely influenced by the geographic location where the procedure is performed as well as the location of the infected tooth. If the infection resides in the front teeth, treatment is typically less costly than a root canal performed in the back molars— this is due to the front teeth retaining only one root while the molars can have up to three. The breadth of the infection can also affect the price of a root canal, as more widespread bacteria buildup often requires more extensive dental work. This is why it is important to undergo regular dental visits to catch infections early on before they have a chance to spread.

According to data compiled by FAIR Health®, a non-profit healthcare organization, the national average for the price of a root canal is $762 for front teeth and $1,111 for molars. Other factors that may contribute to your cost estimate include:

  • Whether the tooth has been previously treated for a root canal
  • Whether you are receiving a restorative dental crown or tooth-colored filling
  • Applicable dental insurance

Ultimately, the cost of root canal therapy depends on the details of your treatment plan. Fortunately, root canals performed in St. Louis are typically more affordable than the price of treatment in coastal cities. Rest assured that you will be provided with a personalized quote before the start of any dental work.

Our practice accepts a range of payment methods to suit our patients’ diverse needs. We believe that no patient should forgo emergency dental services for financial reasons and our team can discuss a convenient payment arrangement—or present independent financing options—to accommodate your unique budget. Our dentists also work with The SmileAdvantage Dental Care Plan to help you receive quality dental care at a reasonable cost. Please don’t hesitate to raise any questions or concerns with a member of our team.

Are There Alternatives to a Root Canal?

An extraction can be utilized to remove an infected tooth, but there is currently no alternative method of clearing away bacterial decay from the pulp chamber while saving the natural tooth. Therefore, a tooth extraction may be necessary to stop the further spread of bacteria if a patient with an infection does not receive a root canal.

After a tooth is extracted, there are a number of other treatments that can replace the lost tooth and restore function to the compromised area. Dental bridges and dental implants can be exceptional solutions to achieve an artificial tooth—referred to as a “pontic”—that blends in seamlessly with your smile for long-term results. When possible though, our dentists strongly recommend saving a natural tooth with a root canal rather than undergoing an extraction. Endodontic therapy can provide a number of advantages when compared to a tooth extraction, including reduced jawbone loss, lesser expense than crafting a replacement tooth, and the ability to retain your own natural tooth root.

Choosing the Right Dentist for Your Root Canal

In preparing for your root canal, you may feel a little apprehensive about the procedure. Our dentists understand that each patient has distinctive needs with regard to treating decayed or badly damaged teeth. We appreciate the importance of choosing the right person to perform your treatment and have provided a number of tips to help you find a qualified dentist to restore your oral wellness:

  • Inquire about training. It is often helpful to research whether a prospective dentist has engaged in continuing education courses or has advanced training in root canal therapy. By reviewing a dentist’s credentials and learning whether they have undergone additional instruction in endodontics, you can ensure that you are entrusting your treatment with a practitioner who has the requisite experience to perform your root canal.
  • Read online reviews from previous patients. Sift through the patient reviews on multiple platforms, such as Facebook and Google, and try to find assessments written by previous root canal patients. These dentist reviews can provide valuable insight into a patient’s level of satisfaction during and after endodontic therapy, as well as give you an understanding of the level of care provided by a given dentist.
  • Select a dentist you trust. Schedule a consultation with a dentist whom you believe to be well-qualified. When you meet him or her in person, you can gain a sense of whether you feel confident in their ability to perform your root canal safely and effectively. Make sure they answer all of your questions thoroughly and walk you through the entire process so you are well-informed on all aspects of the root canal procedure.

Drs. Klumb and Menolascino work diligently to ensure you are as comfortable as possible during your root canal therapy. If you would like to learn more about what an endodontic procedure entails, don’t hesitate to reach out to our practice.

What is Root Canal Retreatment?

A tooth that has been preserved with root canal therapy can often last a lifetime with proper care. However, there are certain situations that can make a tooth vulnerable to additional complications in the years or months following an endodontic procedure, such as an unqualified or inexperienced dentist performing the original root canal or unanticipated problems emerging during the healing process. If a tooth previously treated by another endodontist failed to heal successfully, or has been exposed to new issues, the affected tooth can still be saved with root canal retreatment.   

Endodontic retreatment can sometimes become necessary when a tooth doesn’t heal the way it’s expected to, or when a new injury or decay reinfects the roots of a tooth. In either case, a secondary endodontic procedure can help you preserve your natural enamel by clearing bacteria, cleaning the tooth root, and sealing the canals in the dental nerves to prevent future contamination. Our highly skilled endodontist can carefully evaluate the affected tooth to determine whether retreatment is the best choice for your oral health. If so, a new dental crown or other restoration will be placed atop the retreated tooth in order to recover proper function, protect it from infection, and cancel the need for further treatment.

Additional Root Canal FAQs

Do I need a root canal if there is no pain?

While typically the most obvious sign that the health of a tooth is awry, pain is not the only indication that a patient may need a root canal. An experienced dentist can often observe a tooth and notice the initial symptoms of an infection forming, such as recurrent decay in an old filling or a weakening of the enamel that is exacerbating bacteria buildup in the inner dental pulp. In many cases, a dentist can also examine the tooth and see the predictable course of degradation in the dental nerves that is likely to result if a patient continues without treatment. In these circumstances, a dentist may recommend a root canal before any painful symptoms arise to stymie the further spread of decay. This preventative care can not only save an individual from experiencing uncomfortable symptoms in the future, but it also highlights the importance of regular dental check-ups to monitor the condition of the teeth and gums.

What can I eat after a root canal?

After endodontic therapy, soreness and tenderness in the treated tooth is to be expected. Until the tooth has healed and you are able to chew without discomfort, our dentists recommend sticking to a soft-food diet while avoiding crunchy, spicy, chewy, or salty foods. Several meals can promote the healing process, including fruit and vegetable smoothies as well as fish, eggs, and other protein-rich foods. Adhering to a healthy diet is usually the best course of action. We also encourage you to chew on the opposite side of the mouth as the treated tooth to minimize exposure to bacteria in the area.

How long does a root canal last?

A tooth treated with a root canal can last a lifetime, as long as your procedure was properly performed by a qualified dentist or endodontist. That said, future dental injuries have the potential to damage your restoration and expose the tooth to new bacteria, threatening the success of your root canal. For this reason, our dentists recommend wearing a mouth guard while playing sports or other recreational activities. Good oral hygiene is essential to long-term results, as the recurrent buildup of decay can also compromise the integrity of your restoration and, again, introduce infection. If patients brush and floss daily, as well as undergo regular dental examinations and professional cleanings, a root canal can allow a “saved” tooth to last as long as healthy surrounding teeth.

Are there any dangers of a root canal?

A root canal is a very common, routine dental procedure to eradicate the teeth of infection and save a patient’s natural tissue. Treatment maintains a very high success rate, and there is no medical evidence to suggest that a root canal poses any danger to an individual’s health.

Can you smoke after a root canal?

It is critical to avoid smoking while a treated tooth heals after a root canal. Smoking has been proven to complicate the body’s healing response and can increase the risk of failure after a root canal, potentially causing another infection and requiring endodontic retreatment to save a tooth.

To learn more about root canal therapy or schedule your consultation for the procedure, please contact our dentists today.