In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you would probably have lost that tooth. Today, with a special dental procedure called “root canal treatment”, your tooth can be saved. “Root canals” are a relatively simple procedure involving one to three office visits. Best of all, having root canal therapy when necessary can save your tooth and your smile!
What is the purpose of a “root canal”?
A tooth’s nerve is not vitally important to a tooth’s health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its function is sensory – to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth. When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp tissue and germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. If left untreated, an abscess may form. If the infected tissue is not removed, pain and swelling can result. This can not only injure your jawbones, but it is detrimental to your overall health. Without the proper treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.
What are the signs that root canal treatment is needed?
Teeth that require root canal therapy are not always painful. However, signs you may need root canal treatment include: severe toothache, pain upon chewing or application of pressure, prolonged sensitivity or pain in response to hot and cold temperatures, a dark discoloration of the tooth, and swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your dentist.
What happens during a “root canal”?
Root canal treatment can be completed in one or several visits, if needed. During treatment, your dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems with the nerves of the teeth) removes the affected tissue. Next, the interior of the tooth will be cleaned and sealed. Finally, the tooth is filled with a dental composite, or core. If your tooth had extensive decay, your dentist may suggest placing a post in addition to the core. Most teeth that have had root canal treatment also require a crown to strengthen and protect the tooth from breakage. As long as you continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups, your restored tooth can last a lifetime.