A root canal treatment may be the only way to save your tooth if your tooth's pulp chamber becomes infected. The root canals of teeth have blood vessels and nerves. Deep tooth decay, an injury, or a large filling may cause serious damage and infection to the pulp's nerves and vessels. Root canal, or endodontic treatment cleans out the infected pulp chamber and repairs the damage.
What are some symptoms that indicate you may need a root canal?
- Spontaneous pain or throbbing while biting
- Sensitivity to hot and cold foods
- Severe decay or an injury that creates an abscess (infection) in the bone
Root canals often get a bad reputation for being very painful; however, there is an explanation behind this. If a tooth is very badly infected, a 'hot' tooth, it can be difficult to anesthetize because the anesthetic works at a specific pH. When there is an infection, the pH of the tissue and the tooth may be modified and not allow the tooth to become numb. Sometimes we will prescribe antibiotics before a root canal to calm the infection and balance the pH of the tooth, so that the anesthetic can work.
The root canal procedure takes a little longer than a filling, but the concept is generally the same. The tooth is opened through the crown, the length of the root canal is determined and the unhealthy nerve is removed. The canals are cleaned and shaped with a filing system, then filled and sealed, and a temporary filling is placed in the tooth. After a root canal treatment, the tooth is weaker than a healthy and vital tooth. This is why it is so important to return to have a permanent filling or a crown placed for further protection.