Before we start on the typical symptoms associated with the need for a root canal, let’s first examine what a root canal is. The root canal is the channel that connects the tip of the root with the tooth pulp on the inside of the tooth. It contains blood vessels, the nerve and connective tissue.
When the tooth pulp gets damaged and starts to break down, the root canal gets infected, and if not treated, will result in ever increasing pain and the very real danger of infecting other parts of the mouth that are in close proximity to the infected tooth.
The nerve actually serves no purpose once the tooth has emerged from the gum. It acts only as a hot and cold sensor. Hence, the nerve can be removed, without loss of function of the tooth. The advantage of root canal treatment is that the original tooth is left in the mouth and there is no need for a dental implant to replace the missing tooth.
What Symptoms suggest a Root Canal might be necessary?
Before we list the symptoms, it is worthwhile noting that a tooth that displays these symptoms does not necessarily need root canal treatment, and conversely, a tooth that does not display all of these symptoms might very well need root canal treatment. This is merely a checklist to give you some indication that you need to urgently consult a dentist.
- Severe pain when pressure is applied to the tooth, such as when eating.
- A tooth that is discoloured.
- A persistent bubble or gum boils on the gum at the base of the tooth.
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot and cold, particularly when the source of the heat or cold has been removed.
- Swelling of the gums near the source of the pain.
The dentist will conduct further tests, such as X-Rays and percussion testing, before making the diagnosis that root canal treatment is required.
What causes the decay of the root canal?
Infection in the root canal can be caused through a variety of factors, such as:
- Large cavities caused by deep decay
- Excessive dental work needed on the tooth
- Cracked or chipped tooth
- Injury resulting from trauma to the face
What is Root Canal Procedure?
The dentist has to access the root canal and clean out all the infected tissue. This can take some time dependant on the size of the infected area. Some dentists clean as much as three times to make sure that all infected tissue has been removed.
If all of the infected tissue is not removed, there is a very real risk of the root canal getting re-infected. The dentist then fills the root canal with the same substance used in normal fillings, and seals the cleaned and filled root canal, so that it will not get infected again.
Root Canal or Implant
There is some debate in dental circles as whether one should not just have an implant done; rather than risk re-infection from an improperly performed root canal procedure. However, reinfection is rare when dentists take proper care in cleaning out the root canal. If you would prefer an implant, discuss this in detail with your dentist so that you understand the implications of the two procedures and their respective costs before you make a decision.
Regular Dental Care Protects Your Teeth
Take good care of your teeth and go for regular check ups. When you do this, you ensure that all tooth decay is treated promptly, and you will minimize your chances of needing a root canal treatment. When last did you go for a dental check-up?