A tooth that has become very infected or decayed may require a root canal treatment. Root canal therapy is a treatment that involves the removal of the damaged nerve and pulp, and then cleaning and sealing the area after.
The root canal is the cavity at the center of the tooth. Inside it are the tooth’s nerve and a pulp. Each tooth has a different number of nerves, with each tooth having one to four nerves. The only function that the nerve has is feeling the sensation of hot or cold. Removing it will not affect the health and function of the tooth.
Infection due to cavity is the usual reason why root canal therapy is needed. When a cavity worsens, it affects the pulp and the nerve of the tooth, causing bacteria to multiply and tooth decay and eventually leading to infection. Trauma, a crack in the tooth, deep fillings and repeated dental procedures can also cause damage to the nerve and pulp that will require root canal therapy.
You might need root canal therapy if you are experiencing toothache when you chew or apply pressure, darkening of the tooth, swelling of the gums near the affected tooth, prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold and frequent appearance of a pimple on the gums. If you are suffering from these symptoms, consult your dentist immediately.
The pain due to nerve and pulp damage may eventually go away because the tooth is already dead. One alternative to a root canal treatment is to actually let it go untreated. However, this may cause worse pain and infection in the future. Another alternative is to have the tooth extracted entirely. This may also be the only option if the tooth structure has already severely deteriorated.
What happens during a root canal treatment?
First, an x-ray will be needed to determine the affected areas, the shape of the root canals and if the surrounding bone areas are infected. During the procedure itself, a local anesthesia will be injected to numb the area. Then, an opening will be drilled on the crown to access the pulp. A root canal file and water or sodium hypochlorite will be used to remove the infected pulp, nerve tissue and other debris. The canals will also be cleaned, formed and plugged by filling it with a permanent material. The access hole will also be sealed using a filling. A crown, that may possibly require a post to stabilize it, may be needed in order to restore the tooth.
Contrary to what most people say, getting a root canal treatment is not as painful as you might think. It is usually described to be on the same level of pain as getting fillings. However, the entire treatment may involve more than one visit to your dentist over a couple of weeks. There are cases when the dentist may ask you to come back after a week to finish sealing the tooth. One reason why the dentist may do this is to treat the infection inside the tooth first before sealing it.