Endodontic treatment, commonly known as a root canal, is a way to save an infected tooth. A dentist that does root canals removes infected tissue from the tooth, refills it, and seals it. The root canal treatment removes the infection and prevents future infection in the tooth. Many patients experience pain relief immediately after the treatment and resume normal daily activities shortly afterward.
A root canal is a dental procedure that aims to treat and save a severely infected or damaged tooth. During root canal treatment, the dentist removes the infected or inflamed pulp from the tooth’s interior. This pulp can become compromised due to decay, cracks, or trauma to the tooth. By removing the infected pulp and thoroughly cleaning the root canals, the dentist can alleviate pain, prevent further infection, and preserve the natural tooth.
A tooth has a complex structure that is made up of many different parts. The outermost layer is known as the enamel, providing a tough and protective coating for the tooth. Beneath the enamel lies the dentin, a dense layer that forms the majority of the tooth’s structure. The innermost portion of the tooth is called the pulp chamber, where the dental pulp is located.
During a root canal, the specific part of the tooth that is treated is the dental pulp. When the dental pulp becomes infected or inflamed, a root canal treatment is performed.
Root canal problems can arise due to various reasons, including deep decay, damage, or disease affecting the tooth. Deep decay occurs when tooth decay progresses beyond the enamel and dentin, reaching the dental pulp. Bacteria infiltrates the pulp, leading to infection and inflammation. Trauma or injury to a tooth, such as a crack or a fracture, can also expose the dental pulp to bacteria, causing infection.
There are many different signs and symptoms that can lead to the need for a root canal treatment.
One of the most common indications is severe tooth pain, which can be constant or throbbing in nature. The pain may worsen when pressure is applied to the tooth or when biting or chewing.
Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures is another symptom, where the tooth reacts intensely to such stimuli and the sensitivity lingers even after the stimulus is removed.
Discoloration of the tooth is also a potential sign, where the affected tooth may darken or appear grayish.
Swelling and tenderness in the surrounding gums can occur, indicating the presence of an infection.
The presence of a small bump or pimple-like formation on the gum near the affected tooth, called a dental abscess, can indicate the need for a root canal.
Following a root canal procedure, patients can expect some temporary discomfort or sensitivity. The treated tooth and surrounding area may feel sore or tender for a few days. This discomfort can typically be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers as recommended by the dentist.
To manage post-procedure pain or discomfort, patients can take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen as recommended by their dentist. Applying an ice pack or cold compress to the outside of the cheek near the treated tooth can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
Maintaining good oral hygiene after a root canal procedure is crucial for the success and longevity of the treated tooth. Patients should continue to brush their teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important to remove plaque and debris between the teeth and along the gumline.
If it is not possible to save a tooth through a root canal procedure, tooth extraction may be considered. However, it is important to note that extracting a tooth should be considered as a last resort, as it can lead to further complications and potential tooth replacement options. Discussing alternatives with the dentist is crucial in understanding the specific situation and considering options such as dental implants, bridges, or dentures to replace the extracted tooth. Dentists will evaluate the tooth’s condition, surrounding structures, and overall oral health to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.