A root canal is a common dental procedure. It can treat an infected tooth and prevent a tooth from being lost. A root canal is a relatively routine procedure that has many dental health benefits, the most important being that it can often save your natural tooth so that it can remain in place in your mouth.
What is a root canal and how do you know if you need one? Here are the typical signs and symptoms to look for.
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a procedure that can often save a tooth that is infected or at risk of infection due to decay or damage to the enamel. At the center of each tooth is soft tissue called dental pulp that contains blood vessels and nerves that sustain the tooth. When this tissue becomes infected, it causes pain and discomfort.
During a root canal procedure, the dental pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth and the inside is cleaned and sterilized. It is sealed with a filling material that prevents infection. In most cases a crown will be placed over the tooth to preserve the integrity of the remaining tooth structure.
Warning Signs That a Tooth May Need a Root Canal
The following signs and symptoms may indicate that a root canal is needed:
- Severe toothache. A tooth can become infected when bacteria enters the root canal and infects the dental pulp, the soft tissue inside the tooth. An infected tooth can be painful because the nerves inside the tooth are sensing the inflammation.
- Extreme sensitivity. If a certain tooth is particularly sensitive to cold, heat, or sugar and the feeling resonates after the aggravator is removed, the tooth may need a root canal. Sensitivity indicates that the nerves inside the tooth are exposed, which means there is a high risk of infection.
- Pain when chewing. A tooth that needs a root canal may cause pain when chewing in that area of the mouth, again because the nerves are exposed or sensing inflammation from an infection.
- Gum tenderness. An infected tooth can cause the gum tissue around it to become irritated and inflamed, which makes the gum sensitive or tender to the touch when eating, brushing, or flossing.
- An abscess on the gum tissue. A tooth infection can cause an abscess to develop on the gums, which is a pimple-like bump that often accompanies infection.
- A cracked or chipped tooth. If you have a chipped or cracked tooth, the treatment is often a root canal to prevent bacteria from infecting the pulp through the crack or exposed dentin.
- A discolored tooth. When one tooth turns gray or brown it indicates that the dental pulp has been disturbed in some way and there may be bleeding inside of the tooth. A root canal may be needed to restore the health and natural color of the tooth.
Is a Root Canal Necessary or Can the Tooth Be Extracted?
Attempting to save the tooth with a root canal is preferable to extraction for many reasons:
- The success rate of root canals is 80-95%, so there is a high probability that your tooth will be saved and remain in place for the long term.
- Having a tooth extracted leaves an empty space in your mouth that may cause your other teeth to shift out of place.
- Replacing a missing tooth is a costly and more invasive procedure than a root canal.
If the tooth can be saved with a root canal, it is a much better option than having the tooth extracted.
What Should I Do If I Think I Need a Root Canal?
If you have any of the signs or symptoms that indicate you may need a root canal, contact South Florida Sedation Dentistry to schedule an appointment. If you are experiencing severe pain, call us during or after business hours and we will do our best to see you as soon as possible.