When you visit the dentist for a toothache or inflamed gums, you may think a filling will be required. Yet due to the damage already sustained, your dentist recommends a root canal.
Learn more about root canals and the types of dental issues for which this procedure is recommended.
What Is a Root Canal?
The purpose of a root canal is to remove infected bacteria from the tooth’s pulp to save the existing structure. Often through an untreated cavity, decay passes below the dentin or hard surface layer to the pulp and, eventually, the nerve.
The infection can spread through your body via the blood vessels and connective tissue in the pulp. Its presence and exposure from the cavity or damage irritates now-exposed nerves.
Pulp is not always essential for tooth function and may cause decay or infection to spread. Following disinfection, a root canal removes the infected, inflamed or damaged pulp to prevent an abscess from forming and additional tooth and jawbone loss. What’s left of the exterior remains to preserve the existing structure and the tooth will be filled.
Following a root canal, your dentist will place a crown over the tooth to protect the nerves, prevent further irritation, maintain your mouth’s bite strength, reduce future wear and improve the appearance of your smile. Results are intended to last the rest of your life, excluding further infection or damage to the crown. Most procedures take one to two appointments.
When Is a Root Canal Recommended?
Generally, a root canal is recommended after your tooth has experienced an infection or damage. Specific factors include:
- A recent high-impact injury, resulting in a cracked or chipped tooth. Damage can go back to a fall, sports injury or car accident.
- A cavity that has spread past the surface to the pulp and is causing nerve pain or tooth sensitivity. Your tooth will have a visible hole and may be very discolored in response to blood vessel damage and thinning enamel. At this stage, routine dental care won’t correct the issue and a filling is too small to prevent further decay.
- Dental work that has become loose, damaged or no longer fits, potentially in response to trauma or decay.
- Visible swelling or drainage, indicating the presence of an infection. Your tooth may have already developed an abscess at its base.
Prior to a dentist appointment, the following signs can indicate you’re a good candidate for a root canal:
- You experience sharp, intense pain whenever you bite or chew
- You see a pimple around the base of the tooth
- A tooth in your mouth has a large, visible crack or chip
- You can see a cavity passing through the surface
- Your gums constantly feel tender or sensitive or appear swollen
- One side of your face is visibly swollen
- Pain from consuming hot or cold foods tends to persist
- Your gums have developed a gray appearance
- Visible pus or fluid is draining from the gums or tooth
Interested in learning more about root canals and crowns? To schedule an appointment, contact our Shelton, CT office today.