In the realm of dental care treatments, root canals come with a reputation. Just the thought of them sends shivers down the spines of some people, with images of giant, sharp drills and a great deal of pain. While root canals are a bit more involved than a typical cavity filling, they aren’t as frightening as they seem.
They sound very complex but traditional root canal treatment is a standard oral care procedure that entails removing infected or inflamed tooth pulp and then extensively cleaning and disinfecting the area, followed by filling and sealing. This removes all bacteria from the canal of the root to help ward off further infection and tremendously boosts the odds of retaining your natural tooth components.
How to tell if you need a root canal
Our teeth are protected by a hard layer of dentin and white enamel, and below that is soft pulp, packed full of blood vessels and nerves and related tissue. This pulp starts at the crown of a tooth and reaches clear down to the tips of its roots but when a tooth finally grows through the gum line the surrounding tissue takes over the job of providing nourishment and the pulp only serves to detect hot and cold.
In the midst of all this are root canals that extend from tooth root tip deep into the chamber of pulp, creating an extraordinarily efficient oral system. However, when pulp embedded in the canal of a root is infected, treatment is necessary to allay the issue. If left unchecked, infected pulp can lead to prolonged and more serious problems.
There are many reasons a person should consider root canal treatment and in all cases, putting it off “for a rainy day” or to avoid the stress of it all only inspires much worse. Here are several common precursors to a trip to the dentist for a root canal procedure:
- A tooth under severe decay
- A chipped or cracked tooth
- A crown that has been damaged or has failed
- Injury to a tooth with subsequent pulp damage
- Severe pain when chewing
- Discoloring of a tooth
- Sensitive to hot and cold
- Swollen gums
What about damaged pulp?
If your teeth are surrounded by or embedded in damaged pulp, it needs to go. Here’s what happens: Damaged pulp breaks down into a loose conglomerate and the extra space allows bacteria to multiply with reckless abandon inside the chamber and this leads to considerable pain, abscess, and infection; none of which are pleasant.
Even worse are side effects that people rarely expect or even know about. If you have an infected root canal, that infection might not stay in one place. In fact, your neck, face, and entire head have the potential for swelling and terrible pain. Another unwanted effect is the formation of a hole in the side of a tooth, followed by the drainage of liquid into the gums or adjacent skin. Extreme cases can even lead to bone loss.
Don’t delay root canal treatment
It’s easy to procrastinate when it comes to root canal treatment but there are many reasons to make it a priority, all of which provide you with a much more comfortable future. If you are experiencing symptoms as noted above, here are four top reasons to make a root canal appointment today:
- It won’t get better on its own—This isn’t one of those times you can just ignore it and hope it goes away. Sure, if you wait a very long time the pain will eventually subside but that’s not good. It means the tooth’s nerves are dead but the infection is still alive and well.
- Treatment removes pain—Despite common belief, a root canal procedure is relatively painless and is actually similar to a traditional cavity filling. If you have a painful tooth, treatment is your answer to make all that pain go away.
- Stops infection—if a tooth is infected and dying, root canal treatment stops the infection of the soft inner pulp. When pulp is infected, immediate treatment relieves the pain and stops the infection from spreading.
- Save the tooth—Put off treatment long enough and you could very well lose the tooth altogether, which brings a host of other problems.