Are you experiencing intense pain in your teeth or gums? Do you have sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures? These are likely to be root canal symptoms.
This article will discuss root canal symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Keep reading to learn everything about root canals.
What is a Root Canal? Explained!
A root canal is an endodontic procedure. It is performed to alleviate the pain caused by a decayed tooth. Often bacteria or decay enters the pulp of a tooth and causes infection.
During the root canal treatment, the inflamed pulp is removed. The surfaces inside the tooth are cleaned and disinfected, and a filling is placed to seal the space, preventing natural teeth from reinfection.
Root Canal Symptoms That You Should Not Ignore
When a cavity is not treated for a long time, oral bacteria invade the pulp inside your tooth, making root canal therapy necessary.
You may not realize you have an infected tooth in a few cases. However, there are still noticeable symptoms.
Here are certain root canal symptoms that indicate a root canal requirement:
- Persistent tooth pain: If you experience deep pain inside your tooth, which may also spread to your jaw, face, or other teeth, you may require a root canal treatment.
- Sensitivity to hot & cold foods: If a hot coffee or ice cream causes pain in your tooth and lingers for more than a few seconds, you may need root canal therapy.
- Swelling in gums: An infected tooth can allow pus accumulation in the area, leading to puffy, swollen, or tender gums.
- Swollen jaws: Occasionally, pus may not discharge from the location, resulting in noticeable swelling in your jaw. This could be a sign that you require a root canal treatment.
- Tooth discoloration: The infected pulp of your tooth causes discoloration due to poor blood supply, making your tooth look darker.
- Chipped/cracked tooth: Bacteria can reach into the tooth pulp if you have a cracked tooth because of an injury or due to biting something hard on.
- Pimple on the gums: A gum pimple or boil may appear, releasing infected tooth pus, resulting in an unpleasant taste or odor.
Causes of Root Canal
The primary cause of root canals is tooth decay leading to tooth pulp infection. However, It takes a long time before a dentist or an endodontist recommends a root canal treatment.
This is because the warning signs of tooth decay, like cavities, take months or years to necessitate the treatment.
Apart from tooth decay, other causes may include the following:
- Prolonged gum diseases: Advanced gum disease can cause the gums to recede, exposing the tooth’s root to infection. For example, periodontal disease is a gum infection that damages the soft tissues around the teeth, which can cause tooth decay and eventually lead the infection to the tooth pulp.
- Repeated dental procedures: Repeated dental procedures on a tooth, like multiple fillings or crown placements, can damage your tooth pulp and cause infection.
Root Canal Treatment Procedure
Your dentist or endodontist will usually take a dental X-ray of the affected tooth. The X-ray is taken to determine the damage level caused by the infection. Here are the steps that your dentist will follow during the root canal procedure:
- Anesthesia: Using local anesthesia, your dentist or endodontist will numb the infected area and surrounding gums. It may not be necessary as the nerve is dead, but most dentists will do so to put you at ease.
- Placement of dental dam: Before beginning the root canal treatment, the dentist will place a small rubber dam around your teeth to isolate and keep them dry during the procedure.
- Access hole: A small opening is made in the tooth’s crown to access the pulp.
- Pulp removal: The pulp, bacteria, and debris are removed.
- Shaping the canals: Once the pulp is removed, the pulp chamber and root canals are thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and reshaped.
- Filling the canals: Subsequently, gutta-percha, a pliable dental substance, is used to pack the empty canals.
- Tooth sealing: Afterward, a temporary dental filling is inserted to seal the tooth and obstruct the re-entry of bacteria.
- Placement of final restoration: You will usually require a dental crown to protect your treated tooth and restore your bite. It takes two to three weeks to make a customized crown; when it is ready, the temporary filling is removed and placed permanently.
Advantages of Root Canal Therapy
The following are the benefits of a root canal treatment:
- It inhibits the spread of infection to neighboring teeth.
- It reduces the risk of jawbone damage.
- It lessens the symptoms associated with an infected tooth.
- It eliminates the need for tooth extraction, saving the natural tooth.
Root Canal Infections After the Procedure
There are chances of you having root canal infections after root canal treatment because of the following reasons:
- Root canals may have complex shapes, and infections could be missed during the first procedure.
- Your tooth’s narrow or curved canals may not be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected during the root canal procedure.
- Additional canals in your tooth may contain bacteria that can cause reinfection.
- Delaying the placement of the crown or permanent restoration after treatment may let harmful bacteria re-enter the tooth.
- A new cavity, crack, or damage to the tooth can cause a new root canal infection after treatment.
How to Prevent a Root Canal Infection: Must Follow Tips!
Taking care of your teeth and maintaining good oral health can help prevent root canal infections after the procedure:
- Brush and floss twice a day. Use an electric toothbrush to enhance your cleaning routine.
- Use a gentle, antiseptic mouthwash after a root canal for the first few days.
- A pain medication like ibuprofen can help relieve soreness after treatment.
- Get a final crown or permanent restoration as soon as possible to seal the root canal from bacteria and protect your tooth.
- Get dental cleanings at least twice yearly to keep your teeth healthy and catch decay or infections as soon as possible.
Alternatives to Root Canal Treatment
Tooth removal is the only alternative to root canal therapy. Though the best option is to save the natural tooth, extraction may sometimes be necessary to preserve oral health.
In cases where root canal treatment is not suitable for you, the tooth can be removed and replaced with alternative options such as a dental implant, dental bridge, or partial denture.
Pulp therapy is another alternative to root canal treatment. The success of this less invasive procedure relies on the inflammation and healing potential of the dental pulp. However, it is typically performed on baby teeth and is known as a “baby root canal.”
Root Canals, Cancer, Myth & Fear
The myth still surfaces on the internet that root canals are a significant cause of cancer which first came to life through discredited dental research from the 1920s.
According to the American Association of Endodontists, no medical evidence shows causality between root canals and cancer. Patients who underwent multiple root canal treatments experienced a 45% lower chance of developing cancer.
At the same time, Eric Jacobs, senior scientific director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society in 2019, told The Guardian that researchers have shown that people with these treatments, like root canals, have a lower risk of certain cancers.
The claim that root canals lead to cancer is not supported by scientific evidence. So, instead of believing in such myths, get your root canal treatment done to protect your natural tooth and oral hygiene.
In conclusion, root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp inside the tooth becomes infected or inflamed, usually due to deep decay or a cracked tooth.
In such cases, the infected tissue must be extracted to save the natural tooth and prevent reinfection.
To maintain good oral health, you must practice good oral hygiene, including proper brushing and flossing daily and regular dental checkups.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do root canals hurt?
Most people usually feel at ease after the treatment as the source of infection gets removed during the procedure. However, after a root canal treatment, it is common to experience soreness or numbness, leading to mild discomfort for a few days.
- How long is the root canal recovery time?
The number of appointments required for root canal therapy may vary based on the severity of the infection in your tooth. The procedure takes 30 to 60 minutes on average, but it can take longer for larger teeth with multiple roots.