There are probably no other two words in dentistry that strike more fear in people than root canal! So what is a root canal and why would you need one?
So as you may have read previously under the colored fillings section, a cavity occurs when bacteria in our mouth invades weakened enamel and creates a byproduct that continues to weaken the enamel and allows the bacteria to burrow deeper into the tooth. Every tooth has a nerve in it and that nerve is nourished by a blood supply. There is sugar floating around in our blood. So when this sugar hungry bacteria reaches the space where the nerve is it’s like an oasis in the dessert! The tooth becomes filled with infection and that infection has nowhere to go but outside the tooth which can result in swelling and pain.
There are other ways a tooth can become infected, like with fractures in the tooth structure or trauma, but when a tooth becomes infected, the only way the tooth can be saved is through root canal therapy.
What to look for if your tooth is infected:
- Abscess or pimple on the gum next to a tooth
- Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold
- Severe throbbing especially when lying down
- Swelling or tenderness adjacent to a tooth
- No symptoms at all (yes, some lucky people don’t have to endure the over-rated experience of an infected tooth)
Once a tooth is infected we have to remove that infection which is what we do when we perform root canal therapy. We use a series of small files and medicines that clean out the infection from the space where the nerve used to be and seal it up with a sealer that extends all the way to the end of the root. After that, because the tooth has been weakened , typically a crown is recommended to add strength back to the tooth.
The only other option is to remove the tooth, and depending on how broken down the tooth is sometimes that is the best option, but removing teeth comes with it’s own set of problems such as shifting teeth, spaces opening up around teeth, bone loss around surrounding teeth and extrusion of opposing teeth.
At Waco Family Dentistry we take our time to ensure root canal therapy is as comfortable as possible. By getting the infection under control prior to the procedure, this alleviates most complications that can occur with a root canal.
If you have just had a root canal and looking for post care information click here.