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Just the sheer thought of having root canal treatment is enough to send a shiver down most people’s spines, but despite its reputation, the truth about root canal therapy is very different. In fact, it’s a treatment that should be welcomed and not feared as without it you’d have to lose a tooth. If you have ever endured the misery of a toothache, then a treatment that can fix it is definitely good news! So, what is root canal therapy and when is it necessary?
When Would You Need Root Canal Therapy?
Usually, healthy and strong teeth are protected by an outer layer of tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is extremely strong, and it’s the hardest substance in the human body. Despite this, it can still become damaged. Sometimes tooth enamel becomes chipped or cracked because of trauma to the tooth, perhaps due to a blow to the mouth. Other times, tooth enamel can be eroded by acids that are produced by dental plaque bacteria, which are the result of eating highly acidic foods very frequently.
What Happens When Tooth Enamel Becomes Eroded or Damaged?
When tooth enamel becomes eroded or chipped or cracked, infectious bacteria can penetrate the inner part of the tooth which is considerably softer than enamel. Even if you just have a crack in your tooth, it will open slightly every time you bite down, which will let in bacteria. Eventually, these bacteria will erode the inner part of the tooth before reaching the central part of the tooth. Right in the center of your tooth is the dental pulp and this is the part of your tooth that has nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues.
If you’ve ever wondered why you develop a toothache, it’s because the nerves inside this part of the tooth become infected, so it is little wonder a tooth infection is so unpleasant. Sometimes the pain caused by a toothache can disappear, but this doesn’t mean the infection has gone. Instead, it’s probably more likely caused by the nerves in your tooth dying, so they can no longer cause any discomfort. If this happens, you should still get your tooth checked out by a dentist. In addition to pain, a tooth infection can cause other symptoms.
Signs You Might Need Root Canal Treatment
Other symptoms of a tooth infection include sensitivity to hot and cold, or noticing the gum around the tooth looks red and swollen. If you have a severe infection, you could see a pimple developing on the gum that can indicate a dental abscess. A nasty infection could also cause a high fever, facial swelling and may make you feel generally unwell. If you notice any of these symptoms, then it’s crucial to seek emergency dental care as quickly as you can. Without prompt treatment, a severe tooth infection has the potential to become life-threatening.
What Is Root Canal Therapy?
Root canal procedure is a treatment that gets rid of the pain caused by a severe tooth infection, and it helps to preserve the infected tooth so that hopefully you will have your natural tooth for many years to come. First, your dentist will need to diagnose the infection, which is usually quick and straightforward. They will almost certainly take a digital dental x-ray that will show them the extent of the infection in the tooth and will allow them to assess whether your tooth can be saved.
Your dentist may carry out other diagnostic tests, such as placing something cold on the infected tooth, and then doing the same with a healthy tooth to measure the response to this stimulus. Once all these diagnostic tests have been completed, your dentist can discuss if root canal treatment is appropriate. When a tooth is severely infected, then it may not be possible to save it with root canal therapy, and instead, your dentist would need to extract the tooth to allow the infection to drain. It’s one of the reasons why you should always see your dentist for any dental pain sooner rather than later. The more quickly they can treat the tooth, the better the chance of saving it.
If root canal therapy is a suitable treatment, your dentist will numb the tooth before drilling into the crown, which is the part you normally see in the mouth. It’s necessary to do this to expose the tooth pulp. Next, using special tools, your dentist will carefully remove all the infected tissue in the pulp, as well as the infected tissue in the root canals which extend out from the pulp and into the tooth roots. Sometimes root canal treatment can be quite complicated, for example, when treating a larger back tooth that has several root canals that must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Once your dentist is sure that the infection is completely removed, then they will seal the tooth. Initially, they may seal the tooth with a temporary filling that allows it time to settle down, and to make sure all the bacteria are removed. The tooth is then permanently filled restored during a subsequent appointment.
Normally, a tooth that has received root canal treatment is completely covered with a dental crown because it has almost certainly lost quite a bit of its original structure and wouldn’t be strong enough if it were just to be filled. Once the crown has been fitted onto the tooth, it should feel comfortable, its size and shape are restored, and it’ll be strong enough for you to bite and chew food.
Root canal therapy isn’t a treatment to be feared because before it was developed, dentists had no choice but to extract the infected teeth. Nowadays, root treated teeth may last for years or even for life. As with any dental treatment, it’s important to make sure you see your dentist regularly for check-ups and hygiene appointments. Good preventative dental care will help to protect your dental health and can prevent dental emergencies in the future.
For example, if your tooth infection was caused by a cracked or damaged tooth or a loose or crumbling filling, it might have been avoided had you visited your dentist to receive the appropriate treatment. Often the early signs of dental problems don’t cause any noticeable symptoms, but this is the very time when you should get treatment. It’s less invasive, quicker and cheaper, and it could prevent that nasty toothache.