What is a root canal?
A root canal refers to the dental procedure used to relieve pain in a tooth caused by infection. The pulp inside the tooth at the root can become infected, often due to injury or an untreated cavity. As infected tissue spreads, it causes significant damage to the tooth. Inflammation and pain can be reduced with a root canal, which removes the infected tissue, often replacing it with a temporary filling. Finally, a permanent crown will be used to protect the tooth.
Unfortunately, many root canal procedures would have been unnecessary if the issue had been addressed before it developed into a serious problem. Severe cavities are the most common cause of root canals, and these procedures are more expensive and uncomfortable compared to simple fillings. With that in mind, it is important to consult a dentist if you notice any signs of a cavity or infection:
Chipped, Cracked or Broken Teeth
When a tooth is broken, chipped, or cracked, it exposes nerve endings. Not only are these nerves more sensitive to pain, but they are also more prone to infection. Even a small chip in your tooth can cause an infection. This can spread through your bloodstream and cause further complications, making it even more important to see a dental professional. By treating a compromised tooth immediately, you can effectively preserve its integrity and reduce the likelihood of infection.
Increased Sensitivity to Heat and Cold
Infections and cavities alike can compromise the integrity of your tooth. This will lead to more exposed nerve endings, which will make them more sensitive to heat and cold. This can be triggered by hot and cold foods and beverages and can range from a constant, dull aching to sharp, severe pains. These symptoms are directly related to an infection or compromised tooth, meaning you should visit a dental professional immediately. A root canal can be used to remove the infected tissue, while other dental work may be necessary to repair broken teeth causing exposed nerves.
Should the infection spread from the root of your tooth, it can cause swelling in your gums and pain in your jaw. If you notice raised, swollen, or tender areas on your gum-line, it is possible that an infection has caused inflammation, meaning it has likely spread from an infected cavity. This can present more serious complications if the infection spreads through your bloodstream. However, if the primary infection is in the tooth, a root canal is an effective way of removing the infected tissue and using antibiotics to combat the remaining infection in your gums.
Persistent Tooth Pain
Tooth pain is one of the most common symptoms of severe cavities or infections that may necessitate a root canal. As infections spread from the pulp of the tooth to the root, it can cause pain in the nerves and blood vessels in gums and jaw. Any feeling of pain in your tooth when eating, drinking or talking could be a sign of an infection. These infections can be addressed with antibiotics or a root canal, depending on the severity of the pain and the size of the infection. In either case, the earlier the problem is addressed, the more manageable the symptoms.
Stains and Discolouration
Although stains and discolouration in a tooth can be a result of genetics, poor hygiene, or simply from food and drinks, they can also be a symptom of damage inside your tooth. Nerve damage inside an infected or damaged tooth can cause discoloration as a result of infection and nerve death. If addressed early enough, it is possible that a root canal and permanent crown would save the tooth; however, if the damage is severe enough, the tooth itself may have to be removed. If you notice stains or discolouration in one specific tooth, it is more likely to be caused by an infection that by poor hygiene or foods and beverages. In this case, consult a dentist before the damage gets any worse.
Sensitivity to Pressure
Just as an infected tooth will be sensitive to heat and cold, it can also be more sensitive to pressure. If you feel pain when chewing, closing your jaw, or touching a tooth with your tongue, it is likely suffering from an infection. This kind of pain can also signify that the infection has travelled from the root canal to the blood vessels in the gums, which can cause pain and inflammation. Proper dental hygiene is important in preventing these kinds of infections — not only do you have to brush your teeth to prevent cavities, but you must also prevent your gums from infection by flossing regularly.
Significant Tooth Decay
Once a cavity reaches the nerve of the tooth, it cannot be treated simply with proper dental hygiene techniques. Tooth decay means that a small issue, such as a cavity or minor infection in the gums, has grown into a severe problem. In this case, a root canal is the best option for minimizing tooth decay and preventing infection. If addressed early enough, it is possible that your tooth can be saved and protected with a permanent crown. In extreme cases of nerve death and decay, the tooth may have to be removed entirely. If this happens, there are a variety of devices available that can be used to replace your tooth, so you should consult your dentist to see which dental implant is right for you.