When you have a painful, sensitive tooth, one of the first things your mind jumps to is: do I need a root canal? While root canals have a bad reputation as being a very painful procedure, they’re an effective treatment to relieve your tooth pain and save your natural tooth. Keep reading to learn what a root canal is and when one is necessary.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure used to treat tooth decay or infection that has penetrated to the tooth pulp. The pulp – containing nerves, blood vessels and soft tissues – is the innermost core of the tooth and extends to the tooth root and jawbone. Once decay gets past the enamel and dentin layers and into the core, pulp can become inflamed and infected.
Your dentist may decide that a root canal is the best treatment option for your pain if you have:
- A severe, untreated cavity. Left untreated, decay may progress past the enamel and dentin to infect and inflame the tooth pulp.
- A cracked or chipped tooth. A crack or chip can expose the sensitive nerves and cause bacteria to enter and infect the tooth pulp.
- An injured tooth. An accident that causes direct trauma to a tooth may damage the nerves, leading to pain and tooth sensitivity.
- Multiple dental repairs on one tooth. Multiple repairs can cause the pulp to become irritated, inflamed and painful.
Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For
You should call your dentist any time you experience tooth or gum pain. Your dentist will perform an evaluation to determine the cause of your pain and the right treatment method. Being diagnosed with a cavity doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a root canal. Minor cavities that haven’t entered the pulp can usually be treated with a filling.
However, there are a few telltale signs that indicate significant tooth damage. Inform your dentist if you’re experiencing the following:
- Persistent pain or a deep ache in the damaged tooth
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks
- Sensitivity that lasts for an extended time after eating and drinking hot or cold foods
- Pain when biting, chewing or applying pressure to the damaged tooth
- Swelling and tenderness in the gum area surrounding the damaged tooth
- A small bump that appears on the gum around the damage tooth
- Dark tooth discoloration
Treatment and Recovery
While root canals have a reputation of being incredibly painful, many people report that it’s no more painful than getting a filling. Living with achy, sensitive teeth is a far more painful prospect than undergoing a simple procedure.
During the procedure, your dentist will numb the affected area and use small tools to clean out the infected pulp and remove the nerve. The empty area will be packed with a filling material. Afterward, you’ll need a filling or crown to cover and protect the tooth because it will be structurally weaker after a root canal.
If a root canal procedure is right for you, it will preserve your natural tooth and prevent the need for a more costly tooth extraction and implant. Root canal procedures are extremely effective and may preserve the tooth for the rest of your life. Many insurances cover part or all of a root canal procedure.
Call Boyett Family Dentistry for Tooth Pain
Want to prevent the need for a root canal? Brush and floss daily at home, limit your consumption of sugary snacks and see your dentist regularly for examinations. Regular dental exams can catch and treat tooth and gum problems before they worsen and require more extensive treatment. If you’re experiencing tooth pain, call Boyett Family Dentistry at 863-294-9200 to schedule an appointment.