When the inner nerve of a tooth becomes affected by decay or infection, root canal therapy may be required to restore the tooth. The tooth may become extremely sensitive to both pressure and temperature and intense pain can be expected. No symptoms may be present in the initial stages. However, in the advanced stages of decay and infection an abscess (pimple-like inflammation on the gums) will form.
When confronting this type of decay or infection, the patient has two options: pull the affected tooth or save the tooth through root canal therapy. When extracting a decayed or infected tooth, significant and costly dental problems will arise for adjacent teeth. In the end, tooth extraction may cause more problems than it will solve. Root canal therapy is a much more desirable alternative, as it will provide full functionality to the tooth and mouth, and will not cause any future problems with adjacent teeth.
The reasons a dentist will recommend root canal therapy include the following:
- Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth)
- Development of infection or abscess inside the tooth or at the root tip
- Trauma or injury to the tooth
The restoration that root canal therapy provides will usually last a lifetime. It will provide full functionality back to your tooth and mouth. There may be a need in the future to retreat the tooth, but this would only be necessary if a new, separate infection arose.
Root canal procedures will usually require more than one visit to a dentist or an endodontist (root canal specialist). Using special instruments, the dentist or endodontist will remove pulp, nerve tissue, bacteria, and tooth decay (if present).
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it is sealed by either a permanent filling or a temporary filling, depending on the need of additional appointments.
On the next appointment (usually a week later) the roots and the inner cavity of the tooth will be filled and sealed with medicated dental materials. The tooth will then be sealed with a filling, and then a crown (cap). This will protect the tooth, prevent further breakage, and restore full functionality.
It is considered normal to experience some pain and discomfort for a short time after the treatment. All pain will subside as the tooth and gums heal. The doctor should give you some care and instructions regarding how you can maintain health and functionality to your tooth, as well as recommendations on how to care for your tooth during the healing process.
To prevent any future infection and decay, good oral hygiene practices as well as regular dental visits will aid in the overall health of your mouth, and provide greater longevity in the life of your root canal treatment.