Dentists recommend root canal therapy when an infection spreads to a tooth's pulp, and fillings are not viable options for treating tooth fractures or decay. The procedure addresses uncomfortable symptoms and protects a patient's surrounding teeth and overall health.
A dentist makes an opening through a tooth's crown and inserts an instrument to remove the infected pulp and nerves from the canal within a tooth's root. After thoroughly cleaning the root chamber and applying a topical antibiotic, the dentist seals the opening with a paste and rubber compound before adding a temporary filling. After a few days, the dentist examines the site to ensure the infection is gone and adds a permanent filling or crown for reinforcement.
Root canal treatment is painless and effective for treating bacterial infections and salvaging damaged teeth. Although only a dentist can confirm that a root canal is necessary, the following signs may indicate that patients can benefit from the procedure.
Pain and sensitivity
Pain and sensitivity are common symptoms of various conditions, but persistent discomfort is usually a sign of a root canal infection. Pain can occur deep within the jaw bone or extend to the surrounding teeth and face. Worsening sharp and dull pain upon contact with hot and cold foods and beverages may also warrant root canal treatment.
Facial swelling or lymph node enlargement at the jaw and neck may indicate an abscess at the tip of a tooth's root due to infection of the pulp. An infection can also cause an abscess, redness, and swelling at the gums. In addition, chewing can aggravate the discomfort, break the pocket, and scatter the bacterial contents through the mouth to leave a foul odor and taste.
A tooth with a noticeably darker color than surrounding teeth may indicate a root canal infection. The discoloration is due to limited blood flow to the underlying nerve, which causes it to die. Root canal therapy to remove the dead nerve and infection should occur as soon as possible.
Loose teeth often indicate root canal infections. Teeth become unstable when bacteria weaken the periodontal ligaments, which are bands of connective tissue that attach the teeth to sockets in the jawbone. The ligaments provide the stability that helps teeth withstand the force of chewing, but infection can quickly compromise this vital function.
Chipped or cracked teeth
The slightest trauma can create a crack or hole in a tooth, allowing bacteria to move through the layers, working its way to the root canal where it infects the nerve and pulp. Extensive damage may render a tooth too weak to tolerate standard fillings, making root canal therapy necessary to clear an infection or preserve a tooth.
Root canal therapy is painless and effective for treating the symptoms and complications of a severe tooth infection. A dentist can look for signs and symptoms to determine if a patient can benefit from the treatment.
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