Why Would You Need Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment is needed for two main reasons. The first is infection. An untreated cavity (Hole or Decay) is a common cause of pulp infection. The decay destroys the enamel and dentin of the tooth until it reaches the pulp. Bacteria then infect the pulp.

The second reason for a root canal is damage to the pulp that can’t be fixed. A fracture in a tooth can damage the pulp. So can a less severe blow to the tooth (trauma), even if there’s no visible damage.

Sometimes, common dental procedures can hurt the pulp. One example would be if a tooth is cut too close to the pulp while it’s being prepared for a crown. Then the tooth might need a root canal.

An infection in the pulp can affect the bone around the tooth. This can cause an abscess to form. The goal of root canal treatment is to save the tooth by removing the infected or damaged pulp, treating any infection, and filling the empty root canals.

If root canal treatment is not done, an infected tooth may have to be extracted. It is better to keep your natural teeth if you can. If a tooth is missing, neighboring teeth can drift out of line. Keeping your natural teeth also helps you to avoid other treatments, such as implants or bridges. Also, if you ignore an infected or injured tooth the infection can spread to other parts of your body.

Having root canal treatment on a tooth does not mean that the tooth will need to be pulled out in a few years. Once a tooth is treated, and restored with a filling or crown, it often will last for 10 to 20 years.

Signs and Symptoms

If you have an infection of the pulp, you may not feel any pain at first. But if it is not treated, the infection will cause pain and swelling. In some cases, an abscess will form.

Your tooth might need a root canal if:

  • It hurts when you bite down on it, touch it or push on it
  • It is sensitive to heat
  • It is sensitive to cold for more than a couple of seconds
  • There is swelling near the tooth
  • It is discolored (whether it hurts or not)
  • It is broken

To determine whether your tooth needs root canal treatment, your dentist will do certain tests and x-ray.

Length of Treatment

Root canal treatment can be done in one or more visits. It depends on the situation. An uncomplicated root canal treatment often can be completed in one visit. Some teeth may be more difficult to treat because of where they are in the mouth. Some teeth have more roots than other teeth. Treating a tooth with many roots takes longer. Some teeth have curved root canals that are difficult to find. If you have an infection, you will visit the dentist several times so that he or she can make sure that the infection is gone.

Once the root canal treatment is finished, you will need to see your general dentist to have a crown or filling placed on the tooth. You are likely to receive a crown if the tooth is discolored or if it is used for chewing. The purpose of the crown is to prevent the tooth from breaking in the future.

After Root Canal Treatment

Your tooth may be sore for two to three days after the procedure. The worse the infection and inflammation you had, the more sensitive the tooth will be after treatment. Avoid chewing on the affected side. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers. A pain reliever that also reduces inflammation is likely to be most helpful.