Dr. Robbie R. Hamblin

208 461-2600 or Email Me Anytime

351 West Iowa • Nampa, Idaho 83686

Root Canals

A root canal is treatment to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the bone and gums surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscesses may form.

“Root canal” is the term used to describe the natural cavity within the center of the tooth. The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the root canal. The tooth’s nerve lies within the root canal.

A tooth’s nerve is not vitally important to a tooth’s function. Its only function is to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.  

Why Does Tooth Pulp Need to Be Removed?

When the nerve in a tooth is damaged, it can break down and become infected. This can then lead to an abscess, which is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth.  An infected tooth can also cause: 

  • Swelling that may spread to other areas of the face.
  • Bone loss around the tip of the root, which can spread to the surrounding teeth
  • Drainage problems extending outward from the root. 

What Damages a Tooth’s Nerve and Pulp in the First Place?

A tooth’s nerve and pulp can become irritated, inflamed, and infected due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures on a tooth, and/or large fillings, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the face.

What Are the Signs That a Root Canal Is Needed?

Sometimes no symptoms are present; however, signs you may need a root canal include:

  • Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
  • Prolonged sensitivity/pain to heat or cold temperatures (after the hot or cold has been removed)
  • Discoloration (a darkening) of the tooth
  • Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
  • A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums

What Happens During a Root Canal?

A root canal requires one or more office visits and most can be performed right here in our office. For more difficult cases, sometimes a referral is made to an endodontist who specializes in root canal treatments. 

What Happens During a Root Canal? continued…

The first step in the procedure is to take an X-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in a surrounding bone. We then use local anesthesia to numb the area near the tooth. If you are particularly anxious about the procedure, you may want to consider conscious sedation.  

Next, to keep the area dry and free of saliva during treatment, we will place a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) around the tooth.

An access hole is then drilled into the tooth. The pulp along with bacteria, the decayed nerve tissue and related debris is removed from the tooth. The cleaning out process is accomplished using root canal files. A series of these files of increasing diameter are each subsequently placed into the access hole and worked down the full length of the tooth to scrape and scrub the sides of the root canals. Water or sodium hypochlorite is used periodically to flush away the debris.

Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it is sealed with a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta percha. 

The final step involves further restoration of the tooth. Because a tooth that needs a root canal often is one that has a large filling or extensive decay or other weakness, a crown often needs to be placed on the tooth to protect it, prevent it from breaking, and restore it to full function.

How Painful Is a Root Canal?

Root canal procedures have the reputation of being painful. Usually delaying treatment will make the procedure more difficult.  Once infection is established in the jaw, it can be difficult to remove.  If you suspect you may need a root canal, our advice is to have it taken care of as soon as possible.  As far as pain during the procedure, we will do our best to ensure that you are completely numb before we proceed.  The biggest complaint we receive is that the procedure takes a long time.  If I were having a root canal procedure, I would certainly consider IV sedation. 

What Should One Expect After the Root Canal?

For the first few days following the completion of a root canal, the tooth may feel sensitive due to natural tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This sensitivity or discomfort often can be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Most patients can return to their normal activities the next day.  When stronger medications are required, we can provide you with a prescription as needed. 

How Successful Are Root Canals?

Root canal treatment is highly successful; the procedure has more than a 95% success rate. Many teeth fixed with a root canal can last a lifetime.

Also, because the final step of the root canal procedure is application of a restoration such as a crown or a filling, it will not be obvious to onlookers that a root canal was performed.

Complications of a Root Canal

Despite your dentist’s best efforts to clean and seal a tooth, new infections might emerge after a root canal. Among the likely reasons for this include:

  • More than the normally anticipated number of root canals in a tooth (leaving one of them uncleaned)
  • An undetected crack in the root of a tooth
  • A defective or inadequate dental restoration that has allowed bacteria to get past the restoration into the inner aspects of the tooth and recontaminate the area
  • A breakdown of the inner sealing material over time, allowing bacteria to recontaminate the inner aspects of the tooth

Sometimes retreatment can be successful, other times endodontic surgery must be tried in order to save the tooth. The most common endodontic surgical procedure is an apicoectomy or root-end resection. This procedure relieves the inflammation or infection in the bony area around the end of your tooth that continues after endodontic treatment. In this procedure, the gum tissue is opened, the infected tissue is removed, and sometimes the very end of the root is removed. A small filling may be placed to seal the root canal.  Retreatments and apical surgeries are not currently performed in our office.  Referral to a specialist would be needed. 

Cost of a Root Canal

The cost varies depending on how severe the problem is and the tooth affected. Many dental insurance policies cover endodontic treatment. We would be happy to provide you with a Free consultation that would allow us to give you a treatment plan estimate.  We do attempt to keep the cost more reasonable to providing this service in our office. Fees charged by endodontists can be up to 50% higher.

Alternatives to a Root Canal

Saving your natural teeth is the very best option, if possible. Your natural teeth allow you to eat a wide variety of foods necessary to maintain proper nutrition. The root canal procedure is the treatment of choice.

The only alternative to a root canal procedure is having the tooth extracted and replaced with a bridge, implant, or removable partial denture to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These alternatives not only are more expensive than a root canal procedure but require more treatment time and additional procedures to adjacent teeth and supporting tissues.

Office Hours

Office Hours:
8:00 – 5:00 Monday-Thursday
9:00-12:00 Friday's
Call: (208) 461.2600 or email for an Appointment

Office Location

Dr. Robbie R. Hamblin, DMD
351 West Iowa
Nampa, Idaho 83686