One in three people delay dental care, according to the 2013 Aspen Dental Cost of Delay Study. Delaying dental care unfortunately isn’t the cost-cutting method that many people envision, in fact, skipping annual dental visits or worse, ignoring signs of an oral health problem, can cost more since advanced buildup, decay and infection require more advanced treatments.
A bad infection in a tooth that has reached the pulp, the innermost tissue at the center of a tooth, requires a root canal also known as endodontic therapy to repair the damage. There is a natural canal that is carved through the center of the tooth, a root canal is performed when the tissue inside that canal becomes infected or inflamed. A root canal is a treatment that is used to repair or save a tooth that is infected or severely decayed. During the procedure the dentist removes infected tissue from the pulp and reseals the tooth. If left untreated, an infected pulp can result in an abscess tooth which is a pus-filled infection at the tip of the root of a tooth. An untreated abscess can spread to other parts of the face, neck and body.
Reasons for a root canal and how a tooth becomes damaged
There are a number of reasons that a tooth becomes damaged enough to require a root canal to repair the harm. A crack or chip caused by trauma can split a tooth open and expose the pulp, leading to an overgrowth of bacteria that causes infection. Deep dental decay can also leave the pulp exposed.
One of the biggest signs that a root canal is required is feeling pain that emanates from a tooth. Pain can range from mild to extreme, and can worsen with heat or cold or when biting down or chewing. Other signs that a tooth may require a root canal are swelling and tenderness in the gums, abscess, discoloration in the tooth and prolonged sensitivity.
Root canal procedure
Don’t wait to call your dentist if you feel pain or sensitivity in a tooth. Your dentist will first examine and x-ray the affected tooth. During the next step, the dentist will numb the area with local anesthetic and drill out the affected area using root canal files. Next, the dentist will flush out debris from the canal before sealing the tooth. The infected pulp must be removed or there is a risk of the infection continuing to spread and worsen. In cases of infection, the dentist may put medication inside the tooth to treat the infection and temporarily seal the tooth until the infection is gone.
Once the pulp and infection have been completely removed, the dentist will seal the tooth permanently. Lastly, a tooth that is severely decayed or has weak enamel may require a crown or restoration to repair the tooth and its functions. After a root canal, you should be able to bite, chew and use the tooth normally. You may feel sensitivity or pain in the tooth in the few days following the procedure, in particular if you experienced pain or infection prior to treatment. Most patients are able to resume normal activities the next day after treatment. If you feel pain for longer than 1-2 days call your dentist to schedule a follow up.
Jefferson Dental offers same-day walk-in emergency dental appointments. We offer flexible financing and a dental discount plan that helps cover the cost of treatments like root canals and crowns. If you feel pain in your tooth, click here to make an appointment.