Why Get a Root Canal?
Inside your tooth is a soft area known as the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. Though the pulp normally provides a tooth with nutrients, it can also become infected. When this occurs, the pulp dies. A root canal removes the dead pulp in order to:
Eliminate disease or decay – The infection from a diseased or dead pulp can cause pain, health problems, and teeth loss.
Prevent future infections – If not completely removed, the infection can remain and spread.
Save a tooth – In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased pulp, it was usually extracted. Now, root canals can help you keep that tooth. Even teeth with significant damage from disease or accident can be saved with root canals, and can last for the rest of your life.
The Root Canal Treatment
Root canals, also called endodontic therapy, are fairly common procedures, and the experience is similar to having a tooth filled.
During a root canal, your dentist first removes all of a tooth’s diseased pulp, and then cleans the area. This is typically the most time-consuming part of the procedure, as your dentist needs to clean out every bit of material to make sure that no trace of infection or bacteria remains.
The space where the pulp used to be is filled with a non-reactive and biocompatible material called gutta-percha, and topped with a temporary filling. After a few weeks, your dentist removes the filling, checking again for any bacteria, and applies a permanent crown.
Signs You May Need a Root Canal
An infection usually provides some warning signs. If the pulp of your tooth has become diseased, you may:
Feel prolonged or increased sensitivity to heat or cold or pressure.
See a discoloration or a large cavity.
Experience a foul taste in your mouth, even after brushing.
Notice pus that drains into your mouth.
Experience swollen or tender lymph nodes.
Sometimes, there are no noticeable symptoms, but your dentist may discover the infection during a routine visit.
If You Think You May Need a Root Canal…
Remember, the earlier we can catch a problem, the more likely we can save your tooth. It’s also more likely that you’ll require less extensive treatment.
And though many people are afraid that root canals will be painful, most of our patients are pleasantly surprised to feel little or no pain. In fact, a recent endodontic survey showed that patients who had root canals were six times more likely to describe it as "painless" than patients who had not experienced the treatment.
Does Your Tooth Need Its Pulp?
Though the pulp supplies a growing tooth with nutrients, a fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp, as it is nourished by surrounding tissues.