You’ve certainly heard of a root canal before, but if you’re like most people, you probably don’t know exactly what it is and when it’s needed. A root canal treatment is recommended when the pulp tissue located inside the tooth is inflamed or infected. While you can also choose to have your tooth extracted in these circumstances, saving your natural tooth is the best solution for your dental health.
Although root canals have a reputation for being painful, the truth is that they are used to relieve dental pain. Most patients are surprised that their treatment is no more painful than getting a cavity filled. During the procedure, your tooth is opened in order to remove the pulp and clean the chamber and root canals. After reshaping the canals, a filling is placed inside the chamber to prevent future infection, then a crown or filling is used to repair and seal your tooth.
Here’s how to know if you need a root canal.
You Have Deep Tooth Decay
The benefit of regular dental visits is that when you have a cavity, we’re able to identify it in its earliest stages and treat it before it spreads. When you don’t see the dentist regularly, areas of decay can grow, eventually reaching the pulp of your tooth.
This kind of deep tooth decay causes your pulp to become inflamed or even infected. When you bite and chew, you’ll feel sharp pain; hot and cold sensations cause extreme tooth sensitivity. In cases of infection, you may notice a small pimple-like bump on the gums near your painful tooth. An infected tooth requires emergency dental care so we can save your tooth and prevent the infection from spreading further.
You Have a Broken Crown
If you have a dental crown to restore a tooth that has been damaged by trauma or decay or to hold a dental bridge in place, it can become loose over time. When this occurs, bacteria can seep in and begin to cause decay in the healthy tooth structure under the crown. If the decay is deep enough to reach the pulp, a root canal is needed.
To perform a root canal on a tooth that has a crown, the crown must first be removed. The tooth underneath is opened so we can perform the root canal treatment, then a new crown is made to protect and restore your tooth.
You’ve Had Repeated Dental Procedures
If you’ve had one particular tooth that has needed repeated dental procedures over the years, it may reach a point where the pulp becomes inflamed and causes pain. When this occurs, you’ll need to choose whether you want to save the tooth by having a root canal treatment or if you’d rather have it extracted and replaced with a dental implant or bridge.
You’ve Suffered Dental Trauma
Dental trauma is another reason that you might need a root canal. It could be from an obvious injury like a car accident or a fall, but dental trauma isn’t always identified right away. You might bite into something hard and not realize you have a hairline crack in your tooth until days or weeks later, when the pulp becomes inflamed and painful.
Any time dental trauma reaches the pulp of the tooth, an extraction or root canal is needed. Sometimes, we discover that a tooth has a fracture that extends below the gum line; in these cases, an extraction is the only solution. Otherwise, we recommend choosing a root canal to save your tooth because an extraction can cause bone loss in the jaw if it’s not replaced by a dental implant.