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Root Canals: What You Need to Know

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Thanks to modern dentistry, getting a root canal is not as stressful as it used to be. After treatment, you may wonder how this procedure got a bad reputation. And for sure, treating that decayed, chipped, broken or infected tooth will quickly relieve any dental pain you may have been experiencing. 

What is a root canal?  

A root canal is a dental procedure often used as a last resort to save a tooth that’s severely damaged, decayed, or abscessed. It’s an endodontic treatment, which involves the inner tissues of the teeth — also known as the pulp, nerve, and root.  

Instead of extracting the tooth, an endodontist — a dentist specializing in endodontic treatments such as root canals — or a general dentist will remove bacteria and decay from the inner tissues, disinfect the area with antibiotics, and fill and seal the hollow chamber to prevent new decay.  

Local anesthesia and modern endodontic techniques help keep pain to a minimum. After the root canal, you can expect to feel some mild to moderate soreness in the area.  

Depending on which tooth is infected, the process and cost will vary. Front teeth tend to be cheaper because the procedure is simple, while back teeth generally cost more because they’re harder to access and have more roots than front teeth.  (Read on to find out about ways to reduce the cost). 

And while a root canal procedure helps preserve and save your natural tooth, you’ll likely need a dental crown as well to restore and further protect your tooth.   

See how much you can save with a dental savings plan.

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Six signs that you may need a root canal  

A dental visit is the only way to confirm that a root canal is the best option. However, you can watch out for common signs, which include:  

1. Severe pain – Not all types of tooth pain indicate a need for a root canal. However, a strong, persistent pain that gets worse whenever you’re eating or biting down is a key sign that you should make a dental appointment as soon as possible. Tooth pain rarely goes away on its own, and early diagnosis from your dentist can usually lead to a better outcome.  

2. Discoloration – While some tooth discoloration is common and can be remedied with teeth whitening, it can also be a sign of tooth decay. If you start to notice your teeth or gums turning gray or black, see your dentist right away.  

3. A big cavity or cracked/chipped tooth – A root canal is often needed if a cavity goes untreated. Tooth decay can spread to your tooth’s inner tissues, so it’s important to always get your cavities filled ASAP. Even a tiny chip or hairline fracture on your tooth can allow harmful bacteria to enter your tooth’s inner area and cause an infection.  

4. Unusual sensitivity – If you’re suddenly and consistently experiencing sensitivity when biting down or consuming cold/hot foods and drinks, visit your dentist soon. Temperature sensitivity and pain when chewing are signs of tooth decay and gum disease  

5. Swollen or tender gums – Swollen gums are usually a sign that you have an oral infection that needs immediate treatment. Your gums may also be tender and painful when you touch them, or bleed when you brush. These symptoms could indicate that tooth decay has spread to the gums from the tooth’s root and may require root canals and other treatment to clear the infection.  

6. Dental abscess – A dental abscess is a buildup of pus caused by a bacterial infection. Abscesses can form on the gums, in the teeth, and around the root. If left untreated, they can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty swallowing and breathing. Pus can also ooze from the abscess, which may give you bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth. In some extreme cases, people have died from untreated dental infections. See a dentist as soon as possible. 

How much do root canals cost? 

Root canals can be expensive. Without dental insurance, costs range from $625 to $1,000 for a front tooth to $875 to $1,500 for a molar.  

Do not risk your health by postponing dental visits, even if you think you can’t afford a root canal or other treatment. Consider joining a dental savings plan for fast access to reduced dental costs. Plan members report an average savings of 50%* on their dental care.  

Dental savings plans are a trusted alternative to dental insurance. They activate quickly, within 72 hours of purchase, with emergency activation available on many plans. They do not have annual limits on how much you can save, and even offer savings on procedures to treat longstanding dental problems. 

Explore your savings options at DentalPlans.com, the largest dental plan marketplace, with more than 25 plans from the most trusted brands in healthcare, accepted by over 70% of U.S. dentists.  

Want to find out right now how much you can save on a root canal with a dental savings plan? Use the calculator below.  

*Discount Health Program consumer and provider surveys indicate average savings of 50%. Savings may vary by provider, location, and plan.  

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