What is a root canal?

Every tooth has a system of canals. These canals are filled with nerve tissue. Due to decay, deep restorations, fractures or trauma, the nerve tissue becomes inflamed and may die. Small instruments are used to clean out the nerve tissue in these canals and enlarge them. The canals are filled with a non-metallic, rubber-like material (gutta percha) to seal the canals and prevent contamination. A temporary or permanent filling is then placed depending upon what your general dentist has requested.

What is a retreatment?

When there is leakage of saliva into an existing root canal or when all of the canals are not located and treated, it is sometimes necessary to retreat the root canal system. The old contaminated root filling material is removed, the canals cleaned, disinfected, and new root filling material is placed.

What is an apicoectomy (apico)?

Root canal therapy is a highly successful procedure. However, sometimes failure to heal does occur. In these cases, a surgical approach, called an apicoectomy, may be the answer. During this procedure, the end of the root is surgically exposed, a few millimeters of the root end are removed, then a filling is placed in the root end to seal the canal. An apicoectomy may be the only way to save a tooth that would otherwise be extracted.

Will my tooth need a crown (cap) after my root canal?

Crowns are placed on teeth after the root canal to ensure protection against fracture. Your regular dentist is the person who will provide this service. Sometimes a crown may not be necessary, please contact your general dentist to discuss your needs.

I have a crown on my tooth. Will I need a new one?

Most of the time, it is possible to drill a small hole through the crown which can easily be restored. There is always a possibility, however, that the integrity of the crown may be compromised, requiring a new crown.

Why was I told this may take two appointments?

At the first appointment the interior of the tooth is cleaned and disinfected. If the amount of infection or inflammation is too severe, a second appointment will be required. However, most root canal treatment can be completed in one appointment.

Why do I have to pay a deposit if I have insurance?

Most insurance companies only pay a portion of what they consider “usual and customary.” This is the standard that insurance companies set based upon many of their own factors. We have averaged the amount that most people pay out-of-pocket and quote the deposit based on that estimated amount. It is usually impossible to get an exact amount of the insurance portion over the phone. The only way to find out the exact amount your insurance company might pay is to send in a “pre-treatment” estimate. It usually takes 4-6 weeks for your insurance company to respond.

Why can’t my general dentist perform this procedure?

General dentists are licensed to perform root canals, but a root canal is a delicate procedure with complicating factors. Dentists may refer their patients to someone who specializes in root canal therapy. When performed by an endodontist, difficult cases tend to take less time and the outcome becomes more predictable if done by a specialist.