The only thing that is constant is change. We always improve on what we have, and a root canal treatment is no exception. One generally tends to get apprehensive when the dentist informs the patient about the need for a root canal treatment to save a tooth. Dispelling a common myth, root canal treatment doesn't cause pain, on the contrary it relieves it. The need of root canal therapy arises when the patient complains of pain in the tooth while chewing or sleeping, sensitivity to hot or cold, may even have swelling or tenderness in the gums. 
So what’s a root canal treatment? A root canal is a treatment of the pulp of the tooth that is inflamed, infected, or dead caused by deep tooth decay, repeated dental procedures on one tooth, or traumatic damage. The infection destroys the nerves located within the root of the tooth, eventually causing the tooth to die. Under proper anesthesia, the dentist drills through the tooth crown, removes the nerves and tissues located with the tooth roots. This is followed by its disinfection, cleaning and shaping and filling the prepared canals with gutta-percha. The tooth will need a permanent restoration like a filling or a crown to replace lost tooth structure to resume its functional efficiency and provide a complete seal to the top of the tooth. The success rate of root canal therapy is extremely high when treated at the right time and with the right technique.

Since root canals are very small spaces, they require precision and care to treat well. Therefore, most Endodontists today use state-of-the-art technology, including digital (radiographs) imaging, electronic apex locators, operating microscopes and advanced nickel-titatium files and endodontic filling materials. A general dentist may tell you that the tooth is beyond repair and that you should go ahead with an extraction, but an Endodontist’s opinion may prove different. An Endodontist holds a master’s degree and are experts in this field. They can root-treat, re-treat and carry our minor root surgery, often saving broken, previous root canal failed or complicated teeth. Advancements in training, equipments and anesthesia make modern root canal treatment painless. One should also know that root canal procedures are complex and hence cost varies depending on the tooth. The cost of a multi-rooted tooth (premolar or molar) may be anywhere from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 6000 INR and single-rooted tooth will cost 10-30% less than the posterior tooth. A full crown comes at additional cost of Rs. 3000 to Rs. 5000 INR depending on the type of material selected. However, every case is different and costs will vary from one individual to the next and whether it is being treated by a general dentist or an endodontist.

Through continuing education, Endodontists stay up-to-date on ongoing advancements in root canal technology and utilize their skills and knowledge in their dental office. Patients can have the procedure done in one or two appointments, depending on the condition of the tooth virtually pain-free!
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Dr Naziya Butt is an MDS Conservative Dentistry & Endodontics - Smilez Superspeciality Dental Clinic, based in Mumbai.
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