Your teeth perform the strongest substance in your body. They are even harder than your bones. Despite their strength, they can still be faced with chips, cracks, and decay. If the damage is severe enough, you could be faced with severe issues, including painful tooth infections. If you have a badly damaged or infected tooth, you may need to undergo root canal therapy. Root canal therapy can help save your tooth without having to remove it. The term “root canal” refers to the cleaning of the canals that are inside your teeth. These canals are found under the enamel, dentin, and pulp chamber that contain soft tissue known as “pulp.” The pulp contains nerves, connective tissue, blood vessels and helps fully form the root of the tooth during development.
For many years, root canals were a painful procedure. However, thanks to advancements in modern dentistry and local anesthetics, most patients today feel very little pain and discomfort. You might even find it less painful that living with a decayed tooth.
Why You May Need Root Canal Therapy
The are several reasons a root canal may be necessary. For starters, saving the natural tooth can allow for efficient chewing, natural appearance, normal sensation and bite force, etc. Also, removing a tooth can have serious consequences for your surrounding teeth and jawbone, often leading to misaligned teeth and resorbed bone.
When a tooth is fractured or contains a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp. If left untreated, the bacteria can cause serious infection or tooth abscesses. This can lead to pulp death and even the loss of the tooth. Luckily, a fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp thanks to surrounding tissues. Although, the tooth will become brittle, and a dental crown is required.
How Do I Get an Infection?
While your teeth look pretty simple from the outside, they are rather complex. The outer layer, called enamel, is the only layer that you see. This layer is exceptionally hard. In fact, it is harder than your bone. It not only helps you to bite and chew some different foods, but it also functions to protect the inner layers. Just under the enamel is the dentin. This layer is hard, though not as hard as your enamel, and contains hollow canals that lead to the roots. Below this layer lays the pulp in the pulp chamber. The pulp is the soft tissue that contains blood vessels and nerves.
While the enamel is hard, it can still be cracked, chipped, or suffer decay. When this damage goes past the enamel and into the dentin, a direct path into the tooth is created for oral bacteria. Once the bacteria get into the tooth, they quickly multiply, filling the canals. They also irritate the pulp, which causes it to become inflamed. The longer infections go without treatment, the worse they become. Bacteria can spill out through the root of the tooth, leading to the formation of an abscess. Abscesses grow larger over time. If they rupture, the bacteria can then spread into the bloodstream, which can cause serious health issues.
What are the Symptoms?
One of the most common symptoms of an infection in your tooth is experiencing a very painful toothache. Other symptoms that can point toward an infection include
Jaw and facial swelling near the infected tooth.
Pain and sensitivity that lingers even after the irritant is gone. This often indicates that the nerve is dying.
A bad taste in your mouth that just will not go away.
Your jaw begins to lose bone mass.
How is Infection Diagnosed?
Infection needs to be diagnosed before it can be treated. To provide you with an accurate diagnosis, we need to perform an oral exam. We look inside your mouth, checking your teeth over for signs of decay and physical damage. Your gums are looked over for signs of redness and swelling. We also take dental X-rays. These images will allow us to see issues below the gum line, including bone loss, abscesses, and root damage. Once we have determined that your tooth is indeed infected, we can then create an effective treatment plan.
Root Canal Procedure
Root canal therapy usually takes one or two office visits. In many cases, infected teeth can be treated with a root canal. This procedure is done under a local anesthetic, which ensures that you do not feel any pain. We can also provide you with sedation if necessary. Sedation helps you to relax and remain comfortable. Then we will use a rubber-like sheet known as a dental dam, to protect the tooth from saliva and keep it clean. A small opening is made into the top of the tooth to secure access to the pulp. We will then use a small tool to remove any infected or diseased pulp.
After the pulp is removed, we will flush the canals and make sure they are clean. This may require us to reshape the canals or administer medication to clear any infection. Depending on the severity of the infection, the tooth may be left open to drain for a few days. In this case, we will give you a temporary filling to keep out debris.
Once we are sure that the canals are cleaned and dried, we will fill the pulp chamber and root canals with a rubber compound known as gutta-percha.
After the canals have been filled, the tooth will be too weak from decay and structural damage to remaining on its own. We typically place a crown within 30 days of a root canal. If you practice good oral hygiene, your restored tooth could last a lifetime. Root canals have a high success rate, meaning that in a majority of instances, the tooth can once again function normally.
Contact Us About Root Canal Therapy
If you suspect that you have a tooth infection, it is important that you take action. Call Fairmount Dental Center today at (503) 967-0877, if you have any further questions or you would like to schedule an appointment.