If your dentist has told you that you need root canal treatment, you are not alone. According to the American Association of Endodontists (AEE), over 15 million teeth are treated each year with the root canal treatment. Read on to know more about the procedure and signs that you need it:
What is a root canal procedure?
The outermost part of your tooth is the enamel, which is made mostly of calcium phosphate. Under this, there is a dentin layer and below the dentin layer, there is pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. At the base of the root, there is cementum, which connects the tooth to the gums. During a root canal procedure, the dentist extracts bacteria and decay from the pulp, nerve and root. The area is then disinfected with antibiotics. The empty roots are filled and the area is sealed to prevent new infection or decay. The tooth that has had a root canal procedure is often covered with a crown.
Causes of root canal infection
- Dental decay, damaged or cracked tooth that allows bacteria to penetrate into the pulp and infect it
- Tooth displacement caused by intrusion, extrusion or subluxation
- Repeated dental treatments
- Abnormal tooth anatomy that allows bacteria to infect the pulp
Signs that you may need root canal treatment
Only a dentist can examine your tooth and tell if you need root canal treatment. However, there are some symptoms that can indicate a root canal infection. If you notice any of the below mentioned symptoms, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
This is the most common symptom, which indicates that you may need root canal treatment. If your tooth pain won’t go away or keeps coming back, it could be due to an infection deep inside your tooth. You may feel a sharp pain deep in your tooth or referred pain in the jaw, face or other teeth. However, persistent pain could also come from gum disease, an impacted tooth, a cavity or damaged filling. Only a dentist can find out the exact cause and prescribe the right treatment.
Lingering sensitivity to cold or heat
If you experience sharp or dull pain or your tooth feels sensitive when you eat hot or cold food, it may indicate that the nerves and blood vessels in your tooth are damaged or infected. Some amount of sensitivity is normal, but when it lingers for a longer period, it may be a sign of root canal infection.
If the gums around the painful tooth are swollen and tender, it can be a sign that root canal procedure is needed. The area may look more red than usual. An abscess may also form on the gum and it may ooze pus.
Discoloration of the tooth
The infected tooth may look more yellow or brown. When the tissues in the root canals become infected, they can become dark brown and change the color of the tooth. In such cases, root canal treatment is necessary. The dentist extracts the darkened tooth material and then cap the tooth with a crown, which restores the natural appearance of the tooth.
Cracked or chipped tooth
A cracked or chipped tooth resulting from an accident or by chewing on something hard can open the way for bacteria to enter and cause infection and inflammation. Even if a tooth injury does not cause a crack or chip, it can still damage the nerve necessitating root canal treatment.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or any other kind of tooth discomfort, you need to visit the dentist immediately. Any delay can make the condition worse and it may become difficult to save the tooth.