Root canals strike fear into many people. But root canals are among the most common dental procedures done in the United States.

According to the American Association of Endodontics, more than 15 million root canals are done each year.

Despite the fear, root canals are relatively simple and painless procedures. All they require is taking out damaged or infected pulp, filling in the removed tissue with filler material, and putting a protective crown on the tooth.

This procedure may be even simpler if it’s done on a front tooth.

Here’s the typical procedure for a root canal on a front tooth. A dentist will:

  1. Take an X-ray of the tooth to examine the area that needs the root canal.
  2. Numb the tooth and the area around it with local anesthesia.
  3. Surround the tooth with a barrier that keep the gums and rest of the mouth from being affected by the procedure.
  4. Look around the tooth for any dead, damaged, or infected tissue.
  5. Drill through the enamel and around the tooth to get to the pulp beneath the enamel.
  6. Clear out any injured, decaying, dead, or infected tissue from the root of the tooth.
  7. Dry the area once all the affected tissue has been cleaned out.
  8. Fill the space that’s been cleaned with a polymer filler made from a latex-based material.
  9. Cover the access hole that was made with a temporary filling. This helps protect the tooth from infection or damage while it’s healing.
  10. After the root canal has healed, if necessary, drill down extra outer enamel material and secure a permanent crown over the tooth to protect the tooth from infections or damage for up to 10 years or more.

Root canals on front teeth are easier (and less painful)

Root canals done on front teeth can be easier because there’s less pulp in thinner front teeth.

Less pulp also means it’s not as painful, especially because local anesthesia should mean you feel almost nothing.

Recovery time is shorter for root canals on the front teeth

The recovery time can also be a bit shorter, as your tooth should start to heal in a few days up to a week.

Root canals on the front teeth may not need a permanent crown

You may also not need a permanent crown in all cases because the front teeth aren’t used for intensive, long-term chewing that’s much harder on premolars and molars.

You may only need a temporary filling while the tooth’s healing from the root canal. Once the tooth heals, a permanent composite filling will replace the temporary.

You’ll probably feel some pain after a root canal. But this pain should go away after a few days.

Return to your dentist if you keep feeling pain after a week of healing, especially if it doesn’t get any better or gets worse.

In general, root canals are extremely safe and root canal infections aren’t common.

That said, here are some symptoms that should prompt you to see your dentist:

  • pain or discomfort that’s anywhere from light tenderness or slight aching pain to intense pain that gets worse when you put pressure on the tooth or when you drink something hot or cold
  • discharge or pus that looks green, yellow, or discolored
  • swollen tissue near the tooth that’s red or warm, especially in the gums or in your face and neck
  • noticeable, unusual odor or taste in your mouth from possibly infected tissue
  • uneven bite, which can occur if the temporary filling or crown comes out

Tips for root canal aftercare

Here’s how you can keep your teeth healthy after a root canal and beyond:

  • Brush and floss your teeth 2 times a day (at least).
  • Rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash every day and especially the first days after a root canal.
  • Get your teeth cleaned at the dentist 2 times a year. This can help make sure your teeth stay healthy and find any symptoms of infection or damage early on before they lead to complications.
  • Go to your dentist immediately if you see any symptoms of infection or damage.
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Root canals on front teeth are typically covered by dental insurance plans.

The exact amount of coverage varies by the specifications of your plan and how much of your insurance deductible you’ve already used on other dental cleanings and procedures.

Root canals on front teeth tend to be a little cheaper than on other teeth because the procedure is a bit simpler.

A root canal on a front tooth will likely cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500 if you’re paying out of pocket, with the average range between $900 and $1,100.

Root canals are a huge help to teeth that are infected, injured, or damaged. Not getting a root canal can expose the tooth to increasing infectious bacteria and further damage due to weakness at the core of the tooth.

Don’t opt for a tooth extraction as an alternative to root canals, even if you hope it’ll be less painful.

Root canals have become less painful in recent years due to advances in anesthesia and pain medication. Pulling out teeth unnecessarily can damage the structures of your mouth and jaw.

A root canal on your front tooth is a simple, relatively pain-free procedure that can protect your tooth for years to come.

It’s best to do a root canal as soon as possible if you notice any signs of infection like pain or swelling. See a dentist if you think you need a root canal. They’ll fill you in on what you can expect from the procedure.