The space within the root of each of your teeth is called a “root canal”; and within that canal there is dental pulp that consists of soft tissue, nerves and blood vessels. Tooth decay or trauma can cause damage to your dental pulp. This results in infection that, if left untreated, can spread to the bone around your tooth, resulting in the loss of the tooth.
To save the tooth, your dentist will first remove the dental pulp. Then the area that held the pulp is cleaned and shaped to hold a specialized filler material that will protect your tooth from any more infection and reduce any sensitivity of the tooth. Once the root canal is cleaned, filled and restored, your tooth is capped with a crown that protects the mended root canal and looks and functions like a normal tooth.
A tooth’s pulp and nerve is not important to a tooth’s health and function after the tooth has fully emerged from the gums. If the treatment is not performed, pus builds up at the root tip, and the infection of the pulp can spread to the surrounding bone. The results in pain and swelling; and your tooth would likely have to be removed.
Root canal therapy has a high rate of success, and many teeth undergoing the procedure can be saved to last a lifetime. Additionally, the crown or filling placed after the completion of the procedure makes it hardly noticeable to others that you’ve had anything done.
Most often a prescription of antibiotics is necessary 3-7 days prior to treatment to ensure the successful anesthetization of the infected tooth. If this prescription is followed, the root canal procedure will be virtually pain free.
Neglecting to get a root canal when deep tooth decay is detected can cause serious damage and infection to the nerves and vessels inside the tooth. Without treatment, infection will spread, bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate, and the tooth may fall out. Pain usually worsens until one is forced to seek emergency dental attention. The only alternative is usually extraction of the tooth, which can cause surrounding teeth to shift crookedly, resulting in an irregular bite. Though an extraction is cheaper, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which is more expensive that root canal therapy. Keeping your original teeth is always the best choice; and root canals can make this possible.What are the signs that a root canal is needed?
- Severe tooth pain while chewing
- Your tooth pain wakes you up at night
- Teeth that are highly sensitive to hot or cold, with the sensitivity lingering for some time.
- Discoloration or darkening of the tooth
- Swollen gums in the area of the infected tooth
- On rare occasions, certain dental anomalies will require a referral to an endodontist specialist.