About Nu Dentistry

The Pros and Cons of Getting a Root Canal in Houston, TX

With the right dentist and dental care, root canal treatment can be the one thing capable of saving your beautiful smile.

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

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When you have a bad toothache that won’t go away, you know it’s time to visit your dentist . Most often, severe tooth pain is a sign of dental decay wreaking havoc on your tooth. When our dentists at Nu Dentistry notice a deep cavity, we have to ask ourselves, “Can a badly decayed tooth be saved?” For all but the most severe cases, a root canal can save even a tooth on the brink of death and return it to its former glory.

What is a root canal? A root canal is a procedure a dentist or endodontist performs to preserve a tooth from severe damage and dental decay. The process involves removing your tooth’s infected pulp down to the root, sterilizing it, and restoring it with a dental filling or crown. For some teeth, a root canal involves more than one diseased root or canal. Each root must be completely decay-free before the tooth can be permanently sealed. Otherwise, you risk your procedure failing.

What Causes You To Need A Root Canal?

Teeth are composed of three layers: the hard protective enamel, the softer dentin, and the sensitive dental pulp at your tooth’s center. When the pulp becomes damaged, it can be excruciating. This part of the tooth contains the vulnerable blood vessels and nerves keeping your tooth alive and healthy. When these structures become damaged, you must get a root canal to remove and replace any damaged dental tissue.

The primary reasons your dentist may suggest a root canal include:

Dental Decay

Tooth decay and cavities are the top reason our patients need a root canal in Houston. They burrow through enamel and dentin into the pulp with a single-minded purpose: to destroy your tooth. A root canal is used to clear out the infection and prevent decay from spreading so deep into your tooth that it requires extraction.

Multiple Treatments

When a tooth acquires multiple cavities over the years, it will need the current filling or crown to be removed, the new damage cleared away, and a new dental restoration. Slowly but surely, these multiple treatments will cut out more and more of your enamel and dentin until the pulp is reached. As we know, once the pulp becomes involved, a root canal becomes necessary.

Dental Trauma

Dental trauma like deep fractures and breaks can reach far enough down into a tooth to damage the pulp. Not only can this cause severe tooth nerve pain, but it can also put your tooth’s life at risk. Your endodontist will remove the injured pulp before repairing and reinforcing the tooth with a filling or crown. It’s not just extensive damage you need to worry about, either. Even small and painless cracks and chips from nighttime grinding and clenching can make their mark. Without cosmetic repair like tooth bonding or veneers, many of these minor injuries can still leave your tooth vulnerable to infection and decay. With time, these will require a root canal.

Pros of Root Canal Treatment

Root canals provide relief from debilitating tooth pain. Whether your tooth hurts from trauma or a cavity, root canals permanently stop the problem at its source. They also keep your tooth protected against further harm, potentially for a lifetime with excellent dental hygiene.

They stop root canal infection from damaging nearby bones and teeth. From the moment tooth decay breaks its way through your enamel, it won’t stop its attack on your mouth even once it reaches the end of your tooth. Root canals prevent infection from spilling out into nearby gum and bone tissue in the form of a pus-filled abscess, where it would spread to neighboring teeth and into your bloodstream.

Root canals save your teeth. Pulling a tooth is always a last resort reserved only for teeth a root canal can’t fix. Missing a tooth weakens your smile and leaves an unsightly gap that needs to be replaced. This can be costly and time-consuming. Leaving the gap alone can lead to bone loss, further decay, shifting teeth, and the potential need for another tooth removal.

Cons of Root Canal Treatment

Root canals require reinforcement. By removing much of the central structure keeping your tooth strong and healthy, the hollowed tooth becomes brittle and more susceptible to cracks and fractures. Your dentist must strengthen it with a filling or crown to prevent this. However, there is still a chance you may further damage your tooth if you’re not careful.

Root canals often take multiple visits to finish. Some teeth are more complex than others with two or even three roots, each containing one or two canals. When more than one of these roots is hurt, you may need to come in for a second visit to ensure all infected tissue is cleared away. Another visit may also be required if a crown is necessary to seal a tooth post-extraction.

Not all root canals are 100% effective. For a root canal procedure to be successful, all infected pulp must be taken out and cleaned. Less experienced or skilled dentists may not get everything they need to. Although uncommon, the treatment may fail as bacteria and decay sealed inside your tooth can continue to work their way through your tooth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do root canals hurt?

Root canals have an unearned reputation of being painful—as long as you choose the right dentist for the job. Here at Nu Dentistry, we use a powerful local anesthetic that numbs the area around your tooth. We also have the best technology available to ensure that even applying the anesthetic is as comfortable as possible. We do everything we can to make sure you don’t feel a thing from the moment you sit down in the dental chair.

We understand that some patients may be nervous about their upcoming root canal treatment, especially if they have a dental phobia. Our dentists can help you experience a deeper level of comfort with dental sedation. Sedation relaxes both your mind and body to give you the perfect peace of mind you need to enjoy your time with us. While we won’t put you to sleep, many of our patients become so calm that they fall asleep in the middle of their procedure! If this seems like a great choice for you, be sure to request it in advance. We want to make sure you always have your best dental experience at our Houston office.

How long does a root canal take?

The length of your procedure depends on the complexity of your specific situation. Some patients only need a single 30 to 60-minute appointment to remove all damaged tissue and restore it. More complicated cases where more than one root needs fixing can take as long as three hours. Many dentists prefer to split this time in half with two 90-minute visits. For patients who need a dental crown, a second visit may also be required to switch a temporary crown for a permanent one.

Is it better to have a root canal or extraction?

Our dentists at Nu Dentistry understand the importance of preserving your real smile however possible. Natural teeth keep your smile stronger than even the best dental implant can manage. They also have the potential to last you a lot longer as long as you take good care of them. If there is still a chance that we can bring your tooth back to full health, we always recommend you choose to have a root canal. However, please be aware that root canals may be powerful, but they’re not a cure-all. If your dentist suggests you have your tooth removed, then there is no other way we can protect your smile from decay.

How much does a root canal cost?

The cost of a root canal depends on the type of tooth. Front teeth and canines have only a single root with a single root canal. These take less time to operate on, making them the easiest and most affordable to treat. Molars and premolars nearer the back of your mouth usually have as many as two or three roots, each with one or two canals. As these teeth are more complicated and often require more extensive care, their root canal cost is often steeper.

If you’re at all worried about your treatment cost, our Nu Dentistry dentists are prepared to help you however we can. Most root canals are partially covered by dental insurance. We accept all PPOs to allow you the freedom to seek our expert service affordably. Our office also has alternative financing options for those without insurance or who need assistance covering the rest of your procedure cost. Please feel free to call us if you’d like to hear about our in-house membership program or CareCredit Dental policy.

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Houston, TX 77057