Do you have a constant toothache? Do you experience sensitivity when your teeth come into contact with hot or cold items? You might require a root canal, but you should be asking is; what is a root canal, and when will I need one? The treatment involves the removal of nerve tissue and infected pulp located in the center of the tooth.
Below, I will discuss everything you need to know about root canals and methods you can implement to keep your teeth healthy and avoid this procedure entirely.
When will I need a Root Canal?
Your dentist will perform a root canal when the pulp of your tooth is injured, swollen, or infected, which will preserve the tooth’s structure as once your dentist removes the pulp
, your crown will stay intact.
To prevent something, you need to know what causes it. Causes that can lead to having a root canal performed include:
- Tooth decay is left untreated, and there is no alternative solution
- There have already been several procedures performed on the tooth
- Frail teeth that chip or crack
- A hard blow to your jaw where the pulp in your tooth is injured
There is only one person who can perform a root canal, and that is your dentist. However, multiple symptoms make themselves known, which might require the intervention of this treatment.
If these symptoms appear, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible, as it’s easier to treat if caught early. These symptoms include:
Discoloration of your Teeth
Discoloration can occur when the pulp inside your tooth is infected. In addition, injury to your tooth can cause its tissue to deteriorate, turning your tooth a dark grey color.
Discoloration can also occur when the pulp dies due to insufficient blood supply, requiring a root canal. However, not all discoloration means you will need this procedure, and it is always best to discuss all your options with your dentist.
If you are experiencing a never-ending toothache, it might be time to see your dentist. Even if the pain sometimes dissipates, you may still need a root canal, and it would be best to get it treated sooner rather than later.
There are multiple reasons why you may be experiencing pain which include:
- Fillings that may be damaged
- Gum disease pain resulting from a sinus infection
- A cavity that requires a filling
- An infected tooth
All these causes can result in severe damage if left untreated, so the sooner you have a professional examine your mouth, the better.
You will likely need a root canal if you experience pain that lingers after your teeth contact hot or cold items. The pain remains because the pulp and nerves in your tooth are infected or injured.
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Pain when you Bite down or Touch your Tooth
If you are experiencing pain when you eat or touch your tooth, there is a good chance you have severe tooth decay or damage to the nerves inside your tooth, especially if the pain persists after you have finished eating.
When the pulp starts to die, tiny pieces fall away and irritate the ligament in your tooth. This causes hypersensitivity when biting down or anything connecting with the infected tooth.
Inflamed and Swollen Gums
When the waste from the dying pulp breaks away, it can cause swelling in your gums surrounding the affected tooth. It could be sore to the touch or not be painful at all. In addition, this could result in an abscess forming on your gum line, which causes foul breath and a bad taste in your mouth.
In most cases, you will require a root canal to remove the damaged or infected pulp and nerves in your tooth, preserving the crown.
Teeth that have Chipped or Cracked
When your teeth chip or crack, bacteria can infiltrate those crevices and cause tooth decay which, if left untreated, can result in your needing a root canal.
As mentioned before, if you sustain an injury to your tooth, it doesn’t necessarily have to chip or crack for the nerves to be affected or damaged.
Do your teeth feel sensitive and loose?
Nerve death is the leading cause of tooth mobility when acidic waste from the dying nerves softens the bone around the affected tooth. If you feel like your teeth are loose, it is vital to seek treatment because it can result in multiple dental issues if you leave it untreated.
Your dentist will more than likely need to perform a root canal procedure; however, you might need an extraction if the tooth has severely deteriorated.
The Root Canal Procedure
A root canal is an in-office procedure that will require a numbing agent injected into the gum surrounding the affected tooth. Once the area is numb, your specialist will drill a small hole at the top of the tooth.
A dental tool will be used to remove the damaged or infected pulp. Afterward, your dentist will clean out the cavity, ensuring no remaining residue.
If your pulp is infected, your dentist will apply a coating of topical antibiotics to ensure the infection is cleared and to prevent the chance of a reoccurring infection.
Once the antibiotics are applied, your dentist will seal the tooth using a special sealant called gutta-percha. It is common for dentists to prescribe oral antibiotics as an extra precaution.
Lastly, your dentist will place a temporary filling into the hole on the top of your tooth, made from a softer material compared to permanent fillings. The reason for placing the filling is to ensure saliva cannot cause any damage.
You will need to return for a follow-up appointment to have a permanent filling placed or even potentially a crown.
Once the numbing agent wears off, you might experience some tenderness or pain in your gums. This is normal and will dissipate after time. However, swelling or inflammation might also occur, which you can treat with available over-the-counter medication. For example, Tylenol or Advil works well.
If any of these symptoms last longer than a week, you should seek treatment as soon as possible. Most root canals are a quick and effective procedure, and you should be able to return to work the next day.
Wait for your damaged tooth to heal before using it to chew, so avoid using that part of your mouth when eating until the permanent filling or a crown is applied.
After you have had a few days to heal, you will need to return for a follow-up appointment. Your dentist will ensure the infection has gone by taking X-rays of the affected tooth.
If there is no sign of infection, your temporary filling will be removed and replaced by a permanent one. Next, you will choose what type of filling you want, composite resin or amalgam.
Most dentists recommend placing a crown over the affected tooth, which is superficial teeth usually made from porcelain. Porcelain crowns give off the most natural appearance and protect and add much-needed strength to the tooth.
What are the Risks Associated with Root Canals?
There are several risks associated with root canals which include:
- Tooth loss
In most cases, your dentist will perform a root canal to avoid extracting the tooth. However, in some instances where the damage is too significant, the enamel is too brittle to survive the procedure. This can result in the loss of the affected tooth.
There are cases where infected residue was left behind, and the antibiotics failed. The remaining residue can develop into an abscess at the root of the tooth.
- Filling is incorrect
When filling the canal, your dentist needs to ensure the filling is perfect. By under-filling or over-filling the cavity with the sealant, it can cause failure.
- Tools can break
When it comes to the tools used in dentistry, they need to be acceptable to penetrate and clean out the tiny cavities. Unfortunately, there have been situations where these tools break off, which affects the outcome of your procedure.
- Missed canals
Some teeth have more canals than others, and it can be tough to find them all. If your dentist misses any of these canals, you can experience some complications.
What is a root canal?
It is the procedure where the infected or damaged pulp and nerves are removed from the center of your tooth, filled with a sealant and antibiotics.
Performing a root canal usually happens when tooth decay has advanced to a severe stage, and no other treatment is available. You might also need one if you have sustained a blow to the jaw and the pulp of your tooth is injured.
This procedure is quick and efficient if done correctly, and you can return to work the very next day. However, you might experience some tenderness in your gums surrounding the tooth, which should dissipate after a few days.