Root canal treatment is an extremely common procedure called endodontic therapy. It is an excellent dental treatment that can restore a severely infected tooth by removing the infection from deep inside the tooth. The only alternative to this treatment would be to remove the tooth entirely, a procedure we only recommend as a last resort as we would far rather protect and preserve your natural teeth.
Natural teeth consist of the tooth crown, the part you normally see in the mouth, and this is covered with protective tooth enamel. Directly underneath the tooth enamel is a layer of softer material called dentin. The dentin surrounds the central part of the tooth called the pulp chamber, and this houses the nerves, blood vessels, and other tissues that help nourish the tooth. The tooth nerve senses changes in temperature and pain. The dental pulp extends into the tooth roots called the root canals.
When teeth are strong and healthy, harmful bacteria cannot enter them, but if they become damaged due to trauma or decay, they can quickly get inside the tooth, causing infection. When the bacteria reach the dental pulp and the tooth nerve, it can cause a severe toothache. The dental pulp can also become inflamed and painful if you knock a tooth.
One of the main signs that a tooth has become infected is pain. The tooth may hurt when you bite down, or continuously. The pain may be sharp or throbbing. When you eat anything hot or cold or sweet, your tooth may feel uncomfortably sensitive. If you look at the tooth, it could appear discolored, and the gum around it may be swollen and red, and tender to touch. A severe tooth infection can cause bad breath and an unpleasant taste and spread deep into the root canals and the surrounding bone, weakening and breaking down the bone. Eventually, an infected tooth can become loose.
As the infection worsens, it can kill the tooth nerve entirely so that the toothache may disappear. Unfortunately, the infection will remain and will continue to affect your oral health unless treated professionally. A severe toothache is a symptom that something is wrong and cannot clear up without the proper dental treatment.
Ideally, come and see us at South Nassau Dental Arts as soon as you notice a tooth feels uncomfortable or painful. The sooner we can treat tooth infections, the better the outcome and the greater the chance that we can save the tooth. Additionally, we can provide prompt treatment to relieve dental pain and discomfort, quickly ensuring you feel more comfortable. Leaving the infection untreated may mean we cannot save the tooth and the only option is to remove it. There is also a small risk that a tooth infection could become life-threatening. As the infection progresses, the bacteria can spread to other parts of your body, affecting overall health.
When you see our root canal dentist, they will gently examine the tooth and perform some diagnostic tests. These will almost certainly include digital dental x-rays to visualize the extent of the infection in the tooth clearly. The x-rays will also help us plan treatment, showing the shape and number of root canals that must be cleaned and disinfected during root canal therapy. The number of root canals in a tooth can vary, with a front tooth having just a single root, whereas a larger back tooth can have several tooth roots, all of which contain root canals that require treatment.
If your tooth infection is more extensive or treatment is more complex, we might choose to refer you to an endodontist, a root canal specialist who we trust to take excellent care of your treatment. This might be the case if you have a severely infected tooth with several tooth roots, especially if they are curved and trickier to clean thoroughly.
Great experience on my first root canal appointment. Friendly, fast, clean and accommodating! Couldn’t ask for more.
There is a widespread belief that root canal treatment is uncomfortable or painful, but this is far from reality. This misconception may be because many people are already in considerable dental pain when receiving this treatment. Far from being painful, this treatment will quickly relieve discomfort, and we thoroughly numb the tooth to ensure you feel comfortable during this procedure. While it might take a little longer, root canal treatment should not feel any worse than an ordinary filling. You might experience some tenderness after treatment and once the anesthetic wears off and the tooth settles down. These feelings should only be temporary, and any severe tooth pain will disappear. We might prescribe antibiotics to deal with more severe infections.
Root canal therapy requires several steps to complete and may need two or more appointments.
It is important to complete root canal treatment, and it is best to avoid chewing or biting on the tooth until you have your permanent crown or filling.
After your tooth is fully restored and protected with a new crown, it should feel comfortable and pain-free, and you will be able to bite and chew normally.
A tooth that has received root canal therapy can last for years without problems, especially if you practice good preventative oral care. However, occasionally a tooth can become re-infected. Sometimes it is possible to re-treat the tooth, but it will need careful evaluation to assess if this is the best treatment. If there is only a slim chance the tooth will survive, it could be better to consider other treatments, such as replacing it with a dental implant that could be more cost-effective in the longer term.