If there is one dental treatment that is particularly feared it is a root canal. However, modern root canal treatments are rarely any more complicated than any other dental procedure, and innovations in the tools, techniques and anesthetic/sedation used, mean that it is a fairly simple, straightforward, and pain-free way of treating root canal infections and saving teeth that might otherwise be lost.
The aim of root canal therapy is to remove the infected tissue from the root canals attached to a specific tooth. Smaller teeth tend to have just one root canal, but larger teeth can have two or more. The root canals contain blood vessels that deliver nutrients to the teeth, keeping them healthy. However, when infection sets in, this is no longer possible, and this can put your tooth at risk. Sadly, antibiotics have been proven to be ineffective at treating infections of the root canal and as a result, manual removal of the infected tissue is necessary.
When you experience dental pain, it can be difficult to determine exactly what is causing it, particularly since the discomfort often radiates throughout the mouth. The most common early symptoms of a root canal infection are:
Discomfort or pain when you bite and chew food
Significant sensitivity when you eat or drink anything that is hot, cold or particularly sweet
However, since these symptoms can also be indicative of other dental problems too, it is essential that you make an appointment with your dentist so that they can examine your mouth and teeth and establish the true cause of your pain.
If you don’t seek support from your dentist at this time and you do have a root canal infection, the infection will have the opportunity to spread. Initially, it may seem as though the infection has gone away since your symptoms may disappear temporarily. This happens because the infection prevents blood and nutrients from reaching the tooth, causing some of the nerves to die. However, as the infection progresses, additional symptoms will occur which could include:
Swelling of the gums around the infected tooth
Swelling of your face and jaw on the same side as your infected tooth
A darkening of the color of the tooth
Pus or discharge oozing from the tooth
At this point, the life of your tooth really does hang in the balance and immediate root canal therapy is essential if there is any chance of saving it.
Root canal therapy usually takes place over several appointments. You’ll be given a local anesthetic to ensure that you don’t experience any pain, and if you are particularly nervous, you may be able to be sedated. This will be discussed at your consultation.
During the first appointment, your dentist will drill through the top of the affected tooth in order to expose the root canals. Then specialist tools will be used which remove any infected tissues from within the root canals. Once this is complete, the root canals will be filled with a temporary filling solution and the tooth will be temporarily sealed using a filling or crown and you will be able to go home. This gives your tooth time to settle and the roots time to heal.
Approximately one week later, you will attend your second appointment. This will involve removing the temporary cover and your dentist checking that the infection hasn’t returned. If this is the case, the root canals will be permanently filled which seals the tooth and prevents reinfection. Since root-filled teeth are more likely to break than those which haven’t undergone a root canal, your dentist will likely suggest placing a crown on the tooth to protect it. This is bespoke and will be made to the color, size, and shape of your natural tooth so that it blends in seamlessly with the rest of your smile.
If you would like to find out more about the symptoms and treatment associated with a root canal or to schedule an appointment, please get in touch with our expert dental team in Vienna, VA, or Fall Church, VA today.