If you need a root canal, you have infected tissue inside your tooth. This area, known as the pulp, contains nerves and blood vessels. When infection strikes, the pulp starts to die, and the infection can travel to the roots of your tooth.
Unfortunately, an infection of this nature can’t resolve on its own or be treated with a course of antibiotics. The only way to treat it is with a root canal. That’s because it’s the only way to reach and remove the bacteria within your tooth.
At Beaumont Cherry Valley Dental, Daniel Park, DDS, offers root canals to prevent infections from becoming more serious problems. In this blog, he explains what’s involved in a root canal and why putting off treatment can be dangerous.
Understanding root canals
Your teeth may seem completely solid, but they actually contain layers of tissue. The outer surface — or enamel — is the hardest substance in the body, even stronger than bone. It covers a layer of porous, sponge-like tissue known as dentin. And, at the very heart of your tooth lies the pulp. This part contains nerves and blood vessels.
If bacteria gets to the pulp and causes an infection, a root canal will likely be necessary. Bacteria can get to the pulp because of tooth decay, gum disease, or a cracked, chipped, or broken tooth, among other reasons. As your infection develops, it can trigger a variety of symptoms, including:
- Pain while biting or chewing
- Tender or swollen gums
- Lingering sensitivity to temperature
- Darkening of the gums
- Bumps or pimples on the gums
Since the infection is inside your tooth, you need root canal treatment to resolve the problem. During this procedure, Dr. Park makes a small hole in your tooth, removes the infected pulp, cleans and dries the inside of your tooth, and then fills the empty space with a dental filler.
The last step of your root canal involves sealing the hole in your tooth and protecting it against future infection. Depending on your tooth, this could require filling the opening with dental material or covering the entire tooth with a crown.
This is the only way to treat infection and save your natural tooth, as the only other solution is extraction. And nothing compares to the look or function of a natural tooth, so you shouldn’t wait for treatment.
The dangers of delaying treatment
Without treatment, the infection can cause your dental pulp to die and cause pus to build up in the tip of your tooth root. This is known as a periapical abscess. Other complications of root canal infections include:
- Swelling in the face, neck, or head
- Bone loss around the tooth root
- Drainage into the gums or surrounding skin
Root canal infections can also spread to surrounding tissue, including other teeth, gums, jaws, and tissue in your face and cheeks. It can even spread throughout your body by entering your bloodstream. This is a very serious complication known as sepsis, and it can become life-threatening.
Plus, the longer you wait to seek treatment, the higher the risk of losing your natural tooth. As a result, your treatment can become more expensive, because replacing a missing tooth requires additional steps, such as bridges or implants.
What to expect during your root canal
Before performing your root canal, Dr. Park numbs your tooth, so you won’t feel a thing. The root canal procedure itself usually takes 30-60 minutes, but more complex cases can take longer. After your appointment, you may have mild discomfort, but this should fade within a few days and respond to over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen.
You may need two appointments to complete your root canal treatment. In these cases, Dr. Park treats your infected tooth but uses a temporary filling or crown to close the hole. During your second appointment, he finishes your treatment and permanently seals your tooth with a filling or crown.
Do you have an infected tooth? Don’t wait to seek treatment. To get a thorough evaluation and the treatment you need, book an appointment over the phone with Beaumont Cherry Valley Dental today.