Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure that is done to save a tooth that has become infected or damaged. This procedure involves removing the nerve and pulp from the tooth’s root canal and then filling it with a material that will seal it off, preventing further damage or infection.

Reasons for needing root canal treatment

There are several reasons why a tooth may need root canal treatment. Some of the most common reasons include:

1. Tooth decay: If a cavity is left untreated for too long, it can spread to the tooth’s pulp and cause an infection.

2. Trauma: If a tooth is traumatized, such as from a sports injury or accident, it can damage the pulp and lead to an infection.

3. Cracks or chips: A cracked or chipped tooth can create an opening for bacteria to enter, which can infect the tooth’s pulp.

Symptoms of a tooth in need of root canal treatment

Some of the most common symptoms of a tooth that needs root canal treatment include:

1. Pain: Severe tooth pain when biting down, chewing, or applying pressure to the tooth.

2. Sensitivity: Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, even after the temperature has been removed.

3. Swelling: Swelling in the gums, face, or neck near the affected tooth.

4. Discoloration: Darkening or discoloration of the tooth.

5. Pus: Drainage of pus around the tooth or gums.

The Root Canal Treatment Procedure

The root canal treatment procedure typically involves three to four appointments with your dentist or endodontist. Here is the process in detail:

1. Consultation and Examination: The first appointment is usually a consultation where the dentist will examine the tooth and take x-rays to identify the extent of the damage.

2. Anesthesia: Local anesthesia will be administered to numb the tooth and surrounding area.

3. Preparation: A rubber dam will be placed over the tooth to keep it clean and dry during the procedure. A small access hole will be drilled into the tooth to allow access to the root canal.

4. Removal of infected pulp: The infected or damaged pulp will be removed from the tooth with a dental file. The dentist will use different-sized files to clean and shape the inside of the root canal.

5. Irrigation: Once the pulp is removed, the root canal will be irrigated with a disinfecting solution to kill any remaining bacteria.

6. Filling the root canal: The dentist will fill the root canal with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. This will seal the canal and prevent bacteria from entering.

7. Sealing the tooth: After the root canal is complete, a temporary filling will be placed in the access hole. You will need to return to your dentist to have a permanent filling or crown placed to restore the tooth’s function and appearance.

8. Follow up: Your dentist will schedule a follow-up appointment to ensure that the tooth is healing properly, and there is no further infection.

Alternatives to Root Canal Treatment

If you have a tooth that requires root canal treatment, there are a few alternatives that you can consider. These include:

1. Extracting the tooth: If the tooth is severely damaged, it may need to be extracted. While this may seem like the easiest option, it’s important to remember that a missing tooth can lead to other complications, like shifting teeth and jawbone deterioration.

2. Antibiotics: If the infection is in the early stages, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to clear it up.

3. Pain management: If your tooth is causing pain, your dentist may prescribe pain medication to manage your symptoms until you can undergo treatment.


The cost of root canal treatment can vary depending on various factors, such as the location, the complexity of the procedure, and the professional performing the treatment. Additionally, the cost may vary depending on whether the tooth requires a standard root canal or a more complex one, such as a molar root canal.

On average, root canal treatment can cost from $700 to $1,200 per tooth in the United States. However, the cost may be higher if the tooth has multiple canals or if other procedures, such as dental crowns, are required after the root canal.

Dental insurance may cover some or all of the cost of root canal treatment. Patients should check their insurance benefits and coverage before getting the procedure done.

It is best to consult with your dental professional to get a precise estimate of the cost of root canal treatment, and to understand the payment options available, which may include financing, insurance coverage, or payment plans.


Root canal treatment is a highly effective way to save a tooth that has become infected or damaged. By removing the infected or damaged pulp and filling the root canal, this procedure can prevent further damage and keep you from losing your tooth. If you’re experiencing symptoms of an infected or damaged tooth, talk to your dentist about root canal treatment and other options to restore your dental health.

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