A root canal procedure is needed when a cavity or other type of dental infection reaches the pulp chamber of the tooth where the nerve and blood supply exist. The infection destroys the nerves located within the root of the tooth, eventually causing the tooth to die. Years ago, the only option for this type of dental problem was a tooth extraction. Now, thanks to dental technology, you may be able to keep your tooth even after suffering a major infection!
During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and an abscess may form.
The nerve of a tooth is not vitally important to the tooth's function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its only function is sensory to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth. And as long as proper care such as crown coverage is taken, a root-canal-treated tooth may last a lifetime!
What damages a tooth's nerve and pulp in the first place?
The nerve and pulp can become irritated, inflamed, and/or infected due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures on a tooth, large fillings, cracks or chips in the tooth, or trauma to the face.
What are the signs that a root canal procedure is needed?
Sometimes no symptoms are present; however, there are signs to look for:
- Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
- Prolonged sensitivity and/or pain to heat or cold temperatures (after the hot or cold has been removed)
- Discoloration or darkening of the tooth
- Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
- A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums