A Guide to Root Canal Treatment

If you think you might need a root canal, chances are you’re experiencing some pain. To help, you can take pain reducing medication such as Ibuprofen. Be sure to use the form at the bottom to schedule an appointment right away if you need root canal therapy.

Root canal procedures probably have one of the worst reputations in the dental world. We often have a patient come in telling us about horror stories they’ve heard, yet once their root canal is completed, they are amazed at how easy it was! Hopefully, we can help you become informed about root canals to put your mind at ease.

Root Canal digital example

What is root canal treatment?

Root canal therapy is a procedure performed by a general dentist or an endodontist. It is used to treat an infected tooth or one that has experienced trauma that has caused the nerve to die. When you have an infected tooth, it must be cleaned out! If not, it can become rampant enough that the only option is to extract the tooth. To clean out the infection, the dentist will access (drill into) the tooth to remove any decay and the infected pulp. After the infected nerve has been removed and the canals of the tooth have been sterilized, the canals of the tooth will be filled with a rubbery material called gutta percha. A filling will then be placed over the pulp chamber. Lastly, a crown will be placed to protect the tooth and keep it from breaking.


The Root Canal Specialist

At Northstar, Dr. Kathryn Alderman performs many root canals. Dr. Alderman has performed hundreds of gentle root canal therapies over the years, so you can feel safe and comfortable in her care. If our root canal dentist can’t help you, she’ll refer you to root canal specialist Dr. Jay McConnell at Endodontics Nebraska. You can check out Dr. McConnell’s root canal specialist website by clicking the logo below.


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What does root canal treatment involve?

The goal of a root canal is to clean out the infection and preserve your natural tooth. Nebraska Family Dentistry doctors always have your comfort in mind! We make sure that you are comfortable throughout the procedure. We provide television, music, or movies to help the appointment fly by.

To begin, your doctor or hygienist will gently administer anesthetic with a special technique that makes injections comfortable and easy. We let you relax while the anesthetic takes effect before getting started on the root canal treatment.

Your dentist or endodontist will begin by accessing the pulp chamber and will use a series of special instruments to clean out the infection and remove the nerve of the tooth. Once the pulp and decay have been removed, the root canals will be sterilized with a solution, dried, and filled. A filling will be placed over the pulp chamber to seal it.


Hygienists showing Root Canal examples

Once the root canal is complete, you will make an appointment to have a crown placed on the tooth. Remember, when a tooth has a root canal, it becomes brittle and prone to breaking. Therefore, it is important to place a crown on the tooth to keep it strong and help prevent breaks.

Typically, the first sign your tooth may need a root canal is throbbing tooth pain. The pain can come and go at first, but usually, increases in intensity as the pressure from fluid builds up. Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures and pressure are also very common symptoms. As the infection worsens, you may have difficulty going to sleep at night or being able to stay asleep. You can also have facial swelling at the site of the infected tooth or on that side of your face. Swelling due to infection is very serious, and you should see a dentist right away.


When the nerve of the tooth is infected, you can also develop an abscess. An abscess is your body’s attempt to contain the infection and prevent it from spreading to other areas. The abscess can be visible to you on your gums or palate, or it may be more internal and only visible with an x-ray. The tooth can also start to darken to a grayish color. This is particularly the case when a tooth has been traumatized and is usually one of the first signs, besides pain after a trauma, that the nerve is dying.

How does the pulp become infected?

The pulp becomes infected when decay has infiltrated the tooth. When plaque containing bacteria sits on the teeth, it reacts with foods and drinks and turns into an acid that eats away at your teeth, creating a weak spot or hole called a cavity.

Our teeth are made up of multiple layers. The outer layer, called the enamel, is the first layer of defense. Once the cavity has eaten through the enamel, it gets to the second layer, the dentin. The dentin layer is the final layer of defense before you get to the pulp chamber. The pulp chamber is the inner part of the tooth containing the nerves and blood supply of the tooth. Once the cavity has reached the nerve of the tooth, you will most likely have pain and will have developed pulpitis. If the pulp has become infected, it has irreversible pulpitis and will need to be treated with root canal therapy to get rid of the continuous tooth pain and infection.

How much does a root canal cost?

A root canal is an oral surgery and can vary significantly in price. Like with anything, the best thing you can do is set up a free consultation with our office, where we can diagnose precisely what’s wrong. We can usually offer an accurate estimate as to the root canal cost after our consultation.

No dental insurance? No problem!

Northstar dental partners with Lincoln Dental Plans to offer affordable dental care to our patients without insurance. If you’re in need of a cheap root canal but don’t have insurance, check out their website or give us a call today to enroll.


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