Root canal therapy is used to save a tooth that's severely infected. The treatment involves removing your tooth's infected pulp and nerve, which should relieve the intense pain a tooth infection can cause. Here's an overview of the symptoms and treatment process:
Signs Of A Tooth Infection
You may have an infected tooth that requires root canal therapy if you have any of these symptoms:
- Swollen gums
- Pain when chewing
- A darkened tooth
- An abscess
- Tooth sensitivity that lasts for several minutes after consuming hot or cold foods
The Pulp And Nerve
Each tooth contains a nerve and soft pulp, which are both removed during root canal therapy. The role of the nerve is to detect different temperatures, but its removal does not compromise the overall health of the tooth. It's removed during root canal therapy as it's partially embedded in the pulp.
The soft pulp layer within a tooth can become infected if it's exposed to air or if the bacteria in your mouth migrate into it and begin to multiply. This can happen if you have a small crack in your tooth enamel or you have tooth decay that's left untreated. Removing the pulp is necessary to rid your tooth of the bacteria.
The Treatment Process
Your dentist will x-ray your tooth to determine the severity of the infection before injecting your gum line with local anaesthetic. They will then fit a dental dam around the tooth to protect it from moisture and drill a small hole to gain access to the pulp. The dentist will insert thin metal files into the hole and scrape out the infected pulp and root.
When the infected matter is removed, your tooth will be flushed with water or a disinfectant solution, which will wash out any remaining debris. Your tooth then needs to be filled and sealed, but you may have to wait for a week or so to have this part of the treatment carried out if you have a lot of swelling around the tooth. Waiting can be advantageous, as it allows the dentist to ensure the infection is completely gone before sealing the tooth.
The cavity is usually filled with a natural latex sealing paste, and the small hole your dentist drilled can be sealed with an amalgam or composite (tooth coloured) filling. You may find that the treated tooth is sensitive for a few days, but you can minimise discomfort by eating soft foods and avoiding foods that are either very hot or cold.
Root canal therapy isn't feasible when your tooth is in the late stages of infection, so avoid the need to have your tooth extracted by making a dental appointment as soon as you notice any pain, sensitivity or swelling.