When Do I Need A Root Canal?

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It sounds scary and often stirs emotions of pain and discomfort. It is root canal treatment. In order to know if you may need one, you first must understand what it is. A root canal is a dental procedure that removes the diseased pulp from your tooth’s root.

Your teeth are made up of 3 layers, the outside layer is enamel, the second layer is dentin, and the third layer is a soft inside core that extends into the root and is connected to nerves in your jawbone. Inside the core is the dental pulp consisting of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. If decay gets through the top two layers and into the soft core, the pulp can become infected and/or inflamed or even necrotic (dead). A root canal is necessary to clean out the bacteria from dental decay, preserve the tooth and create relief and health in the mouth.

During a root canal, your general dentist or endodontist (specialists that deal with pathology of the pulp and periradicular- surrounding the root- areas) will remove bacteria and all remaining tissue from the tooth pulp. Then the empty canal space is thoroughly cleaned and filled or obturated. The goal is to hermetically seal the canal space to prevent bacteria from having a space to proliferate and cause infection. Root canal therapy is meant to preserve your natural tooth. Root canal treatment often leads to needing a dental crown (to give support and strength to the remaining tooth) due to tooth loss either from decay or fracture or simply from creating a pathway to allow the pulp to be treated.

Root Canal Facts

    • More than 15 million root canals are performed each year in the United States, according to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE).
    • More than 41,000 root canals are performed each day, according to the AAE.
    • Root canal procedures are commonly thought to be the most painful kind of dental treatment, but studies found that only 17 percent of people who’ve had a root canal described it as their “most painful dental experience.”
    • A 2016 study found that root canal symptoms varied depending on the type of bacteria in the infection.

There are some symptoms to be aware of when it comes to needing a root canal. The only way to really know if one is necessary is by seeing your dentist, and the sooner you get the tooth taken care of the better the outcome will be. Here are the indicators or symptoms to watch for:

    1. Consistent pain in your face, jaw or other teeth.

    2. Tooth or mouth sensitivity to temperature, hot or cold, especially lingering.

    3. A change in tooth color.

    4. Gums that are swollen have an abscess resulting from the infected pulp.

    5. Pain while eating due to sensitivity of touch.

    6. A chipped or cracked tooth makes it vulnerable to bacteria that can set in and lead to inflammation and infection.

    7. A “wiggly” tooth in an adult tooth can possibly be a result of an infection.

Is a root canal painful? Though a root canal can sound scary, with modern methods and numbing agents the procedure can have little to no pain. If there is a significant infection in the area, we may give you antibiotics prior to the procedure to help control the infection and assist with healing and reduce pain. Your mouth may feel sore or tender after the root canal. We usually suggest an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to manage the pain. For those with significant pain, pre-treatment will find a great reduction in pain when proper care is provided.

A large number of root canal treatments can be avoided with proper hygiene and regular dental visits. Decay may occur but when arrested early, a conservative restoration can be done saving you time, money with less discomfort! Other conditions that might lead to root canal treatment can also be picked up during regular dental visits.

If you have any questions, please call the office of Brent A. Spear DDS at 817.920.1488.