There are lots of things that hurt. Skinned knees. Pulled muscles. Broken hearts. Still, one condition is universally acknowledged to be one of the most painful conditions a person can have: an abscessed tooth. But if you have one, it’s root canal to the rescue.
How can my teeth get infected?
Just you can injure other parts of your body in numerous ways — ask the parents of a rambunctious child — a tooth can become infected in several ways. One of the most common is as a result of tooth decay that’s been left untreated. Infections can also be caused by chipping or cracking a tooth, having multiple dental procedures on a single tooth, or facial trauma, such as happens in contact sports or automobile accidents.
If an infection reaches the dental pulp — the live tissue at the center of a tooth — it can cause the area around the roots of the tooth to swell and pus to form. When that happens, you have an abscessed tooth. And an abscessed tooth that isn’t treated is a bad situation just waiting to get worse.
Over time, an untreated abscess can cause the infected tooth and the nearby jawbone to deteriorate beyond repair. It can also push the tooth out of its position, making it more vulnerable to additional damage and much easier to lose. Not to mention that the pain an abscessed tooth causes is why you think you may have an abscess in the first place.
How can an infected tooth be fixed?
Pain when you chew? Sensitivity to heat and cold? Swollen gums? An abscessed tooth certainly sounds painful. And it is. But a root canal — the best way to fix it — isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. In fact, at Lifetime Dental Health, a root canal is no more painful than getting a cavity filled. And, it’s all done under a local anesthetic, so you can be awake through the entire process without worrying that you’ll be in pain.
A root canal is a two-visit treatment, with the majority of the work being done on the first visit. After giving you the local anesthetic, we place a dental “dam” around your tooth to make sure the infection can’t reach any unaffected areas in the tooth or gums while we work. The dam is sturdy, safe, and not uncomfortable. Once the area is set up and isolated, we drill a small opening in the top of the tooth and take out the infected pulp and nerves. We then thoroughly clean the inside of the tooth, apply an antimicrobial solution, and fit the tooth with a temporary filling. While you recuperate between visits, we construct a permanent crown that will fit your tooth exactly, permanently sealing the tooth to ensure that it cannot be infected again.
Don’t I need the nerves you take out?
The short answer is no, you don’t. The nerves of your teeth are not vitally important to their health or their function. They are sensors, meant to react to sensations such as heat and cold; but, removing the nerves in a single tooth will not affect your ability to feel the temperature of something in your mouth, nor will it keep the tooth from serving its purpose. Once a tooth has come through the gums, the absence of a nerve won’t affect how it works. You’ll still be able to chew and grind food as you always have. You just won’t have the pain the abscess caused.
What’s the benefit of a root canal other than no pain?
Although ending the pain of an abscessed tooth is the primary reason to have a root canal, other benefits of the procedure (instead of pulling the tooth) are important to consider, too. Extracting a tooth can be more painful than a root canal, and unless you get an implant or dentures, will leave an unsightly gap and may interfere with eating.
Saving your natural tooth by having a root canal will leave you with the teeth and mouth you’re already comfortable with. Your chewing will be as efficient as ever, you will have your normal biting force, and everything you put in your mouth will feel just as it always has. Plus, it will allow you to maintain the natural appearance of your mouth and jawline. No one will notice a root canal, but a gap between teeth is hard to hide.
How will I know if I need a root canal?
If you are taking good care of your oral health, including regular checkups, your dentist may notice a problem with your teeth at least as soon as you do. However, while it’s common to have an occasional twinge of discomfort in your mouth, there are some signals that only you will be aware of, and that you should bring to our attention as soon as they appear. Tell us immediately if you have:
Sensitivity to heat or cold that lingers after the food or drink has left your mouth
Swelling or tenderness in your gums, or the emergence of pimples on your gums
Darkening of the color of your gums with or without bad breath
If you have chipped or cracked teeth, we should know about that, too. By itself, physical damage to a tooth usually won’t call for a root canal, but such teeth may be more vulnerable to infection and should be closely monitored.
A root canal is considered a major dental procedure, but it needn’t be a scary one. If you experience any of the above symptoms, or have other concerns about your teeth, contact our office for a consultation as soon as you can. The earlier oral health problems are identified, the easier they are to fix. And we are here to fix them.
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