Root Canals – Symptoms and Treatments
When a tooth is damaged from decay, injury or other cause, the root canals of that tooth can become infected and inflamed. When this occurs, you may experience pain or discomfort in the tooth that won’t go away. If left untreated, the infection could spread to other areas of your mouth or body.
The tooth’s pulp contains a hollow area, similar to the center of a pencil, that receives nutrition through blood vessels and sensory nerves. If the tissue is infected or damaged, it will likely require a root canal treatment to preserve the tooth and prevent it from being lost.
Infected or inflamed pulp is often a sign of an underlying health condition like gum disease, or an advanced stage of tooth decay. If left untreated, the infection can spread and lead to a range of issues, including sensitivity to hot and cold foods, reoccurring infections or even a heart attack.
It’s best to see your dentist if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Symptoms that suggest you may need a root canal include severe pain or sensitivity in your tooth, swelling and a temperature sensation in the gums, and a lingering ache when chewing food. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
You might also experience a bad taste in your mouth or numbness. This is a sign that the infection is spreading and will only get worse over time.
Your dentist will take x-rays to help diagnose the cause of your pain and determine whether you need a root canal. They will also discuss your treatment options with you, including whether to extract the tooth or place a dental implant to replace it.
Some of these treatments can be done by a general dentist, but it’s usually necessary to seek endodontic care from an endodontist, a specialty dentist who has advanced training in treating the interior structures of teeth. Seeing an endodontist will give you peace of mind, as they are specially trained to deal with complicated root canals and other treatments.
During root canal treatment, your dentist will drill an access into the affected tooth and use tools to remove the infected and damaged pulp from inside it. They will then clean out the canals with a series of files, and they may spray water or sodium hypochlorite to flush out bacteria and debris.
They will then fill the canals with a material that will seal off the tooth and protect it from bacteria and future damage. Once the canals are filled, your dentist will place a crown over the tooth to protect it and restore its function.
It’s recommended that you eat soft foods for two to three days after the root canal, as this will lessen the amount of pressure on your tooth. You can gradually begin eating solid food when you feel comfortable, but it’s best to avoid hot and cold foods until the healing process is complete.