If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve likely heard someone compare the pain they’ve felt to the pain of a root canal. Before many people are likely old enough to even need a root canal, they’ve already formed an opinion about this treatment as something excruciating and to be avoided at all costs. While we do recommend avoiding the need for root canal therapy altogether, we can attest that this treatment in no way deserves its bad reputation, and we’d like to take a moment on this National Root Canal Appreciation Day to dispel those misconceptions.
Just What Is a Root Canal?
What most people refer to as a root canal is an endodontic treatment in which the infected pulp and nerve in the root of a tooth are removed, the root canal is cleaned out, the space is filled, and the tooth is sealed and crowned to restore the tooth to healthy function. Because this treatment preserves your natural tooth structure and bite, it’s much preferred to extraction whenever possible. Despite the bad publicity around the treatment, it functions to immediately alleviate tooth pain caused by rampant infection and often abscess at the tooth’s root. This helpful graphic shows the series of steps the dentist or an endodontist will take in preserving a tooth using root canal therapy.
What Causes a Patient to Need Root Canal Therapy?
There are numerous factors that can play into the kind of deep infection of a tooth that requires endodontic treatment. Oftentimes it is highly preventable tooth decay that makes its way to the pulp and roots of a tooth. In other cases, a patient has had multiple procedures done on a tooth that over time have led to the susceptibility of that tooth’s core to infection. Sometimes a chip, crack, or other injury to a tooth can lead to deep infection. There are even cases when a tooth has no visible signs of damage or decay, but a trauma has lead to pulp damage that necessitates root canal therapy.
What Are the Signs I Need Root Canal Therapy?
With regular dental visits, your hygienists and dentist will often be able to head off instances of deep infection and hopefully address the issue before root canal therapy is needed. But there are times when an infection flares up quite suddenly, and it’s good to know the warning signs so you can alert our office right away. Here are some of the most common conditions associated with infection of a tooth’s pulp and roots:
Cracked or chipped tooth
Sharp, severe pain when chewing or biting down
Tender and/or swollen gums
Abnormal bulging or formation of pimples on the gums
Darkening or decay of the gums
Keen tooth sensitivity to hot or cold
While none of these conditions is a certain indication that root canal therapy is needed, you should always alert us to them right away: Acting quickly can help to avoid further damage, infection, and the need for more extensive (and expensive) endodontic treatment.
Seriously, Will It Hurt?
If you had root canal treatment before modern techniques and anesthetics, it might’ve lived up to its reputation as a painful procedure. Today, however, most patients who undergo the treatment describe it as being relatively painless. We take great care to ensure our patients are fully numb and remain fully numb when a root canal (or any procedure) is performed. Progressing deliberately and skillfully and seeking constant feedback, your provider will keep you as free from pain as any other dental treatment. Many patients claim that root canal therapy was much more comfortable for them than fillings.
How Much Does Root Canal Therapy Cost?
The cost of root canal treatment will vary a good deal depending on the level of infection, the complexity of the case, and the tooth in need of repair. For example, molars are generally more difficult to treat, and the cost therefore tends to more. Broadly speaking, root canal is a much more cost-effective treatment than tooth extraction and replacement, since a bridge or implant will be called for to replace an infected tooth that’s extracted. Everyone’s situation is different, but our office will always be completely transparent and up-front when it comes to costs. For a little perspective, though: As of 2021, the average cost for root canal therapy for a front tooth was around $900, the average cost for a bicuspid was around $1,000, and the average cost for a molar was about $1,600.
There comes a time for many people when traditional methods of tooth restoration are no longer viable. The impairment of the natural teeth has crossed a threshold where fillings are impossible or imprudent. In these cases, many people choose dentures, usually due to their comparatively low cost. For others, a welcome alternative to dentures is full-mouth rehabilitation (sometimes called full-mouth restoration or full-mouth reconstruction), which in the broadest sense is using multiple advanced restorative techniques to rebuild your natural, healthy smile. Bluffside Smiles is proud to offer this service to our La Crosse and Greater Coulee communities.
Who Are Candidates for Full-Mouth Rehabilitation?
Our office stands by its commitment to never try to “upsell” or strong-arm patients into treatments. We never want anyone to feel that they’re being railroaded when it comes to any procedure, especially one that involves a significant investment of time and money. That’s part of the reason why we created this blog article: We want our patients to be informed of every option and to have a clear understanding of the treatments we might recommend for them. Transparency and clear communication are central to how we do dentistry, and candidates for full-mouth rehabilitation can rest assured that from your first consultation to the very last appointment, you will know what’s going on with your treatment plan in terms of services provided and the costs they entail. In the end, whether our patients choose dentures or full-mouth rehabilitation (or some other treatment option), we will always provide them with the same personalized care and everything they need to make the best decision for themselves.
That said, there are several reasons why people seek out full-mouth rehabilitation. Here are the most common:
Decay of teeth – Many candidates for full-mouth rehabilitation have experienced extensive tooth decay, sometimes through poor dental hygiene habits and diet, but sometimes as a result of things like medications or genetic/hereditary factors.
Wearing down of teeth – Many of our full-mouth candidates have suffered from an erosion of their tooth enamel because of persistent grinding, acid reflux, or simply years of use.
Damage or trauma to the teeth – Accidents, sports injuries, or other impacts to the teeth will often bring about the need for an overhaul of the bite and smile.
Persistent problems with the jaw and/or tooth alignment – Often full-mouth rehabilitation is sought out when there’s a misalignment of the jaw and/or teeth, which can lead to tooth damage, ongoing headaches, and muscle pain.
While there are other reasons for seeking out full-mouth rehabilitation, candidates most commonly have one of these four issues.
What’s the Process for Full-Mouth Rehabilitation?
No two patients will ever have exactly the same experience with full-mouth rehabilitation. At our office, a central guiding principle is providing personalized care, whatever the service being provided. We want to know you and your thoughts well before we begin on any treatment plan. But every patient who decides to embark on full-mouth rehabilitation can expect similar things from the overall experience.
Consultation with the dentist – You’ll start off by being scheduled for an appointment to meet with the providing doctor to discuss your situation, conduct a thorough examination of your teeth and oral health, answer any questions you might have, and begin the steps for a treatment plan going forward. There are situations where you might meet with the dentist only to discuss the full-mouth treatment and then return for the thorough examination at a second appointment.
X-rays and impressions of your teeth – To carry out any full-mouth rehabilitation treatment plan, you will need to have current X-rays, along with a 3D scan and/or impressions taken of your bite.
Initial photographs – We’ll also take photos of your teeth at this time — not only do we love to be able to show you the wonderful before-and-after imagery at the end of the treatment, the photos will help guide things like alignment of the teeth and coloring of any crowns.
Finalized treatment plan – Once our dentist has all the information needed on the condition of your teeth, the health of your gums and bone structure, the alignment of your jaw, and the appearance of your smile from an aesthetic standpoint, a step-by-step treatment plan will be created to guide the rest of the process. As alluded to above, no two treatment plans will ever be the same, and they will factor in your specific needs and desires for the final outcome. Costs and time commitments will be made clear, and any further questions will be answered.
Rehabilitative procedures – These procedures will obviously vary from patient to patient, depending on their specific needs. Some patients undergoing full-mouth rehabilitation might only need two or three from the following list, where others will require many or all of the services. All of these procedures will have been discussed with the patient ahead of time and integrated into the unique treatment plan.
Teeth cleaning/periodontal care – The first procedure most full-mouth patients will undergo ensures that natural teeth and gums are as healthy as possible before moving forward.
Crown lengthening – In order for crowns (or possibly bridges) to be placed on those teeth that need them, healthy tooth structure may have to be exposed.
Gum contouring – In addition to crown lengthening, patients’ gums may need to be shaped to present their most symmetrical and healthiest looking smile.
Orthodontics – Our dentist may recommend Invisalign® or other orthodontic treatments to help address bite issues and move the patient’s teeth into the optimal position for restoration.
Bone grafting – If patients opt for dental implants to replace damaged or missing teeth, bone grafts are sometimes required to provide enough stability and structure for the implant to be anchored properly.
Dental implant placement – Using 3D imagery of the patient’s mouth and jaw, our dentist will create a guide and anchor into the bone a titanium implant that will later receive a ceramic crown or potentially anchor a bridge restoration.
Crown preparation – In order for any crowns to be placed on a patient’s natural teeth, existing tooth structure will have to be reduced and shaped to receive the crowns.
Temporary crown placement – Once the natural teeth needing crowns have been prepared, temporary crowns will be placed to ensure proper fit and bite alignment. These temporary restorations will give the patient time to grow accustomed to their new teeth and will be worn until our lab finishes crafting the permanent ceramic crowns.
Placement of permanent crowns or other restorations – Once we have back from the lab the patient’s final crowns (or potentially their bridges, veneers, inlays, or overlays), the dentist will remove any temporaries and permanently cement the final restorations to the existing teeth.
Final photographs – Once patients have completed the entire full-mouth treatment plan, we take photos of the final result. We use these for our own documentation and education purposes, and we may also — with patients’ permission — share them publicly on our website. The before-and-after imagery (like the photos included in this blog) are an excellent way to educate and help prospective full-mouth patients make decisions about moving forward with the treatment.
How Long Does Full-Mouth Rehabilitation Take?
The duration of the entire process of full-mouth rehabilitation will vary a great deal from person to person based on dental needs, desired outcomes, and other factors like age and budget. There are some patients who complete the entire rehabilitation within two months. Other patients may choose to address different needs over the course of a year or more. Some of the procedures in the process require built-in waiting time. For example, if a bone graft is needed, the healing time can be up to four months before an implant can safely be placed. If orthodontic treatment is needed to move the teeth into proper position, the waiting time could be six months to a year. Whatever your particular dental needs, you can rest assured that you will know how long the process will take when you go over your individualized treatment plan with the dentist.
How Much Does Full-Mouth Rehabilitation Cost?
This question is at the front of most patients’ minds when they schedule their initial consultation. And, as you can guess from what you’ve already read, the answer is dependent upon each individual’s dental needs and desired outcomes. Cost is also determined by what types of treatment are chosen: A patient who chooses dental bridges to replace missing or damaged teeth will pay less than a patient who chooses dental implants for the same replacement. A patient may choose veneers or inlays/overlays over crowns. One thing is certain and consistent: At Bluffside Smiles, you will never be surprised by costs. We will talk you through every step of the process in your treatment plan, alerting you to the various prices of different procedures, explaining how much of the treatment may be picked up by insurance, and helping you to make the best decision for your individual circumstances. Because of the variety factors and potential services involved, it’s difficult to give an average cost for full-mouth rehabilitation. On the lowest end, a patient is looking at a cost of about $15,000. For more extensive work, the cost can run in the $30,000 to $45,000 range. That is, without question, a great deal of money to spend on one’s teeth; but for those who have chosen to go through the process, having their natural smile restored to health is well worth the investment.
Where Can I Learn More About Full-Mouth Rehabilitation?
The best resource we can provide is our team, which has a great deal of experience working with patients on their full-mouth treatment plans. For more information on how the process works or questions related to your specific situation, please give our office a call at (608) 788-6939. We look forward to speaking with you and helping you on your way to a fully restored smile! Below are a few more before-and-after photos of full-mouth rehabilitation patients, along with additional web resources on this subject.