Demystifying Root Canal Treatment: Understanding the Process, Benefits, and Common Misconceptions

Demystifying Root Canal Treatment: Understanding the Process, Benefits, and Common Misconceptions

When your mouth throbs and hurts, a hole in the tooth is often to blame. If tooth decay has spread to the tooth’s nerve, often only a root canal treatment can save the tooth. With the proper anaesthetic, the root canal treatment usually does not cause any pain, even if such an operation is unpleasant. Before the treatment, the dentist should always clarify whether the health insurance company will cover the root canal treatment costs because this is only a health insurance benefit under certain conditions.

When is a root canal treatment necessary?

The dentist usually carries out A root canal treatment when caries have spread through the tooth’s pulp to the tooth’s nerve and have caused inflammation there (pulpitis).

The first signs of such pulpitis are increased sensitivity to heat and cold and severe toothache. This occurs when the tooth tissue swells and presses on the tooth’s nerve. In most cases, the inflammation leads to the death of the pulp (irreversible pulpitis).

In rare cases, however, the inflammation can go unnoticed. This is particularly fatal because it can spread the inflammation to the jawbone.

If the tooth’s pulp has died, there is often only a choice between a root canal treatment or complete tooth removal. Often, tooth preservation through a root treatment is the better alternative. Correctly performed interventions have a high success rate and give the treated tooth a long life.


Root canal treatment process

Root canal treatment is usually performed under local anaesthesia. The area around the affected tooth is locally anaesthetized, so the patient should not feel any pain during the root canal treatment. The treatment then proceeds as follows:

  • As soon as the anaesthetic takes effect, the dentist must first gain access to the root canal.
  • There, he removes the damaged pulp, the tissue and the inflamed or dead nerve.
  • The tooth canal is then carefully cleaned and smoothed.
  • After that, the canal is disinfected, filled with an antibacterial drug, and temporarily sealed.

In the subsequent treatment, the tooth will finally be closed, provided no complications exist. Depending on the case, the dentist decides on a standard filling, a pin anchorage, or a tooth crown. The latter is often used because a root-treated tooth is dead and is no longer supplied with blood by the body. Since this usually makes it more unstable, a crown offers additional stabilization.

How long does a root canal treatment take?

The duration of the root treatment largely depends on the number of root canals and their accessibility. How many sessions are necessary at the dentist’s office also depends on the healing process of the tooth. Only when the inflammation has wholly subsided can the tooth be finally sealed.

Depending on the healing process, at least two sessions are usually necessary before the root canal treatment is complete.


Advantages and chances of root canal treatment

The great advantage of a root treatment is that if it is successful, a diseased, inflamed tooth with dead pulp can be preserved in its standard functionality.

Root canal treatment is successful in 70 to 95 per cent of all cases. After the treatment, the treated tooth differs slightly in its lifespan from the other teeth.

How likely the treatment will have a positive outcome depends, among other things, on the size and progress of the inflammation and the anatomy of the patient’s teeth. For example, if the root canal is curved, this makes the root treatment more difficult, but according to the current state of the art, it does not represent an exclusion criterion for treatment.

Risks in root canal treatment

However, a root canal treatment not only offers opportunities but also involves some risks. The dentist’s fine instruments can break off when working on the tooth root and get stuck in it. The instruments can then often only be removed with difficulty.

When hollowing out or smoothing the root, it can also happen that the wall of the tooth is accidentally pierced. When filling the root canals, the canals can also become overfilled, leading to nerve damage in the lower jaw.

If all bacteria are not removed from the ducts, it can also lead to renewed inflammation. Sometimes, tooth pain can persist long after the procedure, so regular check-ups are essential. As a rule of thumb, a root canal treatment should only be successful after two years without any symptoms.

If the dentist does not work carefully and thoroughly during the root canal treatment, blood residue can remain in the tooth root canal. Bacteria then decompose these, and the haemoglobin pigment contained in the blood can subsequently discolour the tooth, turning it greyish to dark.

This is how you can support the healing.

To avoid jeopardizing the healing process immediately after the treatment, you should refrain from coffee, nicotine and physical activity in the first few days. Because caffeine drives up blood pressure, and nicotine hurts blood circulation and, thus, wound healing. Sporting activities should initially be avoided due to the increased risk of injury.


Health insurance and root canal treatments

Root canal treatment costs are only covered by health insurance under certain circumstances. The services must be sufficient, appropriate and economical.

That is why some techniques, such as a microscopic root canal treatment, are paid for privately. In addition, health insurance does not cover treatments that have no apparent chance of success. Even root revisions (treatment repetitions) are often not covered by the insurance company.

In addition, the roots must be able to be filled up to the tips. However, this is only sometimes the case with the frequently curved roots of the molars.

Coverage for molars

If a molar is affected, other conditions must also be met for the health insurance company to cover the costs:

  • The molar must be part of a complete set of teeth with no gaps.
  • A cantilever situation – a one-sided shortening of the row of teeth backwards – can be prevented by treating the root of the molar.
  • By treating the molar tooth, existing dentures can be preserved.

If this is not the case with molars, the health insurance company will only cover the costs of extracting the tooth. If you still want to save your tooth, you can have the root canal treatment as a private service.

The cost of such a treatment is around 1,000 euros per tooth. You can get more information about financing root canal treatment from your dentist or your health insurance company.

Root canal treatment: The four most common mistakes

According to the German Society for Endodontology and Dental Traumatology (DGET), the four best-known misconceptions that exist around the topic of root canal treatment are:

  1. Root canals cause pain. Root canals do not have to be painful. If the dentist applies the anesthesia correctly, you will not feel any pain during the procedure.
  2. Root canal treatments reduce the durability of the tooth. A root canal treatment does not have a significant impact on the durability of the tooth. A root canal treated tooth differs in terms of its “lifespan”. hardly a healthy tooth. With appropriate care, it can last a lifetime.
  3. Root canals make teeth brittle. After a root canal treatment, the teeth often must be covered with a crown or a partial crown. However, the tooth has lost more substance than healthy teeth. On the other hand, the teeth’ resistance is not changed.
  4. Root canals have a low success rate. With a qualified dentist and sufficient treatment time, the success rates of root canal treatments are between 70 and 95 per cent.

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