Are you bothered by a constant toothache? If so, your pain could be the result of a diseased nerve. In the past, if you had a damaged nerve in one of your teeth the only solution was tooth extraction. These days, with advanced technology and specialized procedures like root canal treatment, more and more of our patients can save their diseased teeth.
Root canals, relatively minor and straightforward procedures, can be done quickly with very little pain or discomfort. In fact, depending on your personal situation, a root canal can be completed within one to three visits. While you may have heard horror stories about root canals, we want you to know that these procedures are no big deal!
What Is a Root Canal?
It seems like such a simple question, but to give you a proper answer we need to explain the role of nerves in the teeth. Here is a surprising fact. Did you know that the nerves attached to your teeth serve no purpose other than to provide sensory information to your brain? While a tooth’s nerve plays a critical role before teeth erupt, after they emerge from the gums the nerves are no longer necessary to the health of your tooth. They exist only to provide sensory information alerting you if something is too hot or too cold.
So, if the nerve isn’t necessary why does it need to be removed? The answer is the risk of infection. The nerves in your teeth are made of pulp tissues. When a tooth has a large cavity or the tooth is cracked, this presents the perfect environment for bacteria to settle into the pulp tissues. Once this happens, germs begin to form and cause infections. Infections in the pulp tissues can cause uncomfortable pain and swelling. Aside from the physical discomfort, infections in the pulp tissues can progress and become dangerous, threatening your overall health.
When Should I See My Dentist for a Root Canal?
Many patients who end up having root canal treatment say they never experienced any pain leading up to the treatment, which is entirely possible because not all infections are painful. However, most infections provide some indication that there is a problem. Consider the following symptoms:
• Relentless toothaches
• Discomfort when chewing
• Soreness when pressure is applied to the area
• Sensitivity to hot and cold foods
• Staining or bruising of the tooth
• Inflammation in nearby gums
If you have any of the preceding symptoms on a regular basis, call us right away to get immediate treatment.
What Happens during a Root Canal?
The goal of root canal treatment is to eliminate the affected pulp tissue. After the pulp tissue is removed, the next step is to clean the tooth, apply a sealant, and then use dental composite to pack the tooth. Sometimes, if the tooth has quite a bit of decay, we may recommend putting a crown on the tooth to strengthen the tooth and protect it from breaking in the future.
A tooth repaired by a root canal treatment can last for a long time. In fact, many of our patients who have had root canals find that their restored teeth present no future problems. Of course, maintaining good oral habits helps the situation. Always remember to regularly brush, floss in between meals, and keep your regularly scheduled dental appointments.
For more information, contact our esteemed dentists, Dr. Wu and Dr. Bayley, for answers to all your questions.