The Last Line of Defense Against Tooth Decay: Root Canal Treatment
It might sound dramatic, but the title of this blog sums up root canal treatment perfectly, and it really is the last treatment available which can save a severely decayed and infected tooth from extraction. Contrary to what you may have heard about root canal therapy, it truly isn’t any worse than having an ordinary filling.
Although your tooth may need a while to settle down afterward, this is because it was so badly infected. The severe pain caused by a tooth infection is resolved with root canal treatment, and you will soon feel much more comfortable.
Why Do People Need Root Canal Treatment?
Root canal treatment is required if you have a tooth that is severely decayed, or which has been damaged by trauma. Untreated injuries to a tooth allow infection-causing bacteria to get deep inside the tooth. Eventually, these bacteria will reach the innermost part of the tooth which contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues and is called the pulp. As you can imagine, infected nerves are extremely painful! The only way to clear up the infection is to remove the tooth pulp with root canal treatment.
The tooth pulp is needed when a tooth is first developing, but once your adult tooth is fully grown, then it’s no longer strictly necessary. An adult tooth can survive perfectly well without the pulp, and while the tooth may become more brittle over time, a root treated tooth is generally entirely covered with a dental crown to protect and preserve it.
How Can I Tell If I Have an Infected Tooth?
The most common symptom of a tooth infection is pain, and any dental discomfort is a signal that something is wrong. When a tooth is infected, then it can be uncomfortable or painful to bite or chew. The pain may be persistent and throbbing or more intermittent. The gum around the affected tooth can begin to look swollen or red, and sometimes you may notice a pimple is starting to form on the gum tissue which is where the infection is building up and can signal the beginning of a dental abscess. A particularly severe infection can make you feel very unwell and you may be feverish or will have facial swelling.
If you do experience dental pain, then please get in touch with us here at Spokane Dental as soon as possible. It is especially important to seek emergency dental care if an infected tooth is making you feel unwell. In the very worst case, a severe dental infection can become life-threatening so don’t ignore it! Our dentist, Dr. Jonathan Smith makes every effort to see dental emergencies on the same day and can provide compassionate care to diagnose and to relieve unpleasant and painful symptoms. Diagnosing a badly infected tooth is relatively quick, and Dr. Smith will take digital x-rays to assess the extent of the infection. He may also carry out other diagnostic tests that are quick and non-invasive. The sooner you seek dental care, the greater the chance that we can save the tooth, which is important to us because it’s always our top priority to help you maintain your natural teeth.
Why You Don’t Need to Fear Root Canal Treatment
If you’ve never had root canal treatment before, then please don’t worry! Dr. Smith will use plenty of local anesthetic to ensure you feel comfortable during treatment. We also realize that for some people the idea of having just anesthetic isn’t enough, which is why we also offer sedation dentistry. With sedation dentistry, even the most nervous person can comfortably receive root canal treatment.
What to Expect during Root Canal Treatment
The idea of root canal therapy is to access the pulp inside your tooth. To do this, Dr. Smith will make a small opening in the crown of your tooth to expose the tooth pulp. All the infected pulp is thoroughly removed using specialized instruments, and the root canals of the tooth will also be cleaned. The root canals extend into the tooth roots, and the number of root canals can vary according to the type of tooth being treated. For example, a front tooth will only have one root canal, but a large back tooth may have three. Also, the shape of these root canals is unique, which is why digital dental x-rays are so useful.
The information on these images shows Dr. Smith the number of root canals and their shape so he can ensure they are all properly cleaned. Once all the infected tissue is removed, then the area is disinfected. If a tooth was particularly severely infected, Dr. Smith might choose to place topical antibiotics inside the tooth, which is to make sure all the bacteria are thoroughly removed. Generally, a root treated tooth is temporarily filled after the initial treatment. Once it has settled down, you will need to return to Spokane Dental for treatment to be completed. Often, a tooth that has needed root canal treatment will have lost quite a bit of its original structure to infection or trauma and must be completely covered to protect it.
Placing a dental crown will provide the proper protection for your tooth, restoring its shape and appearance so that your tooth will look beautiful once more and you can eat in complete comfort. It is vital to return to the dental office to complete a root canal treatment because your tooth will be quite fragile and without the crown is more likely to become re-infected.
How Long Will a Root Treated Tooth Last?
After treatment is completed, your tooth should last for years, and some people will keep a root treated tooth for life. However, there is always a small chance that a tooth can become re-infected after root canal treatment. If this does happen to you, then one possibility is to re-treat the tooth which can be successful. Otherwise, it may be better to remove the tooth and to think about how best to replace it, possibly with a dental implant or dental bridge. Removing it will always be the last choice suggested and only after we have explored all other options. Feel free to contact Spokane Dental at (509) 822-5614.