A root canal treatment is needed when tooth decay gets into the pulp of a tooth and the pulp becomes infected. As with any infection, your system tries to fight back by sending white blood cells and antibodies to the area to kill off the bacteria causing the infection. Unfortunately, there’s very little room inside a tooth for these body defenses to work and the pulp, the tissue inside the tooth tries, but is unable, to swell. Instead it is choked off and eventually dies.
At first, when the tissue dies, you may think the problem has solved itself because you no longer feel pain. That’s not the case. The infection is still there and will begin moving into the bone, causing a more serious problem, an abscess.
This is why a root canal treatment is called for. In many cases it is not painful at all because the tissue is dead. A root canal treatment restores the tooth to health by removing the infected or dead tissue and then sealing the tooth.
If some tissue is still alive, novocain is usually enough to deaden the area and allow treatment to continue without discomfort. In fact, a tooth extraction is usually more stressful for the patient, than a root canal treatment, which may cause no more discomfort than filling a cavity.
When Does a Tooth Need a Root Canal?
- You may experience moderate to severe lingering toothache ingesting hot or cold liquids or foods
- The same moderate to severe pain may happen when you bite on the tooth
- Your tooth is sensitive when you tap or put pressure on it
- A toothache wakes you up in the middle of the night
- A pimple on your gum that may release pus or blood
- Pain radiates from one area of the mouth to another
One or more of these symptoms may give you a clue that you might be a candidate for a root canal treatment and a visit to your dentist is called for.
What to Expect
In a root canal treatment, the decay and the infected or dead tissue is thoroughly cleaned out. Then the entire inside of the tooth is filled with a root canal sealer material. While this takes care of the infection, the tooth is now fairly weakened. That’s because during the treatment the nerve, blood and nutrient supply to the tooth is removed. This causes the tooth to become brittle and prone to fracturing, which can result in the need to extract the tooth. In many cases a full coverage dental crown restoration may be recommended to prevent this from happening.
If you have a toothache or suspect that you have an infected tooth, you may or may not need a root canal treatment. Call Dr. Tran for an appointment at 714-907-1557, or visit her Make an Appointment page. She will carefully examine your tooth and then recommend an appropriate treatment to solve your problem.