No one wants to go to the dentist and learn that they need a root canal, but often they are the only way to save a natural tooth from needing to be extracted. Although root canals are commonly regarded with a sense of dread, the truth is that with modern techniques and local anesthetic, root canal treatment is no more painful than having a cavity filled! Below, we discuss some of the reasons you might need a root canal and what you can expect from the procedure.
The most common reason for needing root canal therapy is tooth decay. A cavity in the outermost layers of your tooth can be drilled out and your tooth can be restored with either a dental filling or crown, but when decay reaches the pulp at the center of your tooth and causes it to become infected, your only options are to have a root canal or to extract the tooth.
Choosing a root canal is the best option for your oral health because it allows you to preserve your natural tooth, rather than having the tooth extracted and then replacing it with a bridge or dental implant. Should you leave a deep cavity untreated, it can cause severe pain and infection that can spread throughout your mouth and even other parts of the body.
Dental Trauma or Injury
Other times, root canal treatment is needed because the pulp is inflamed after dental trauma or injury. This could be a crack or fracture that reaches the pulp, a tooth that has been knocked out altogether or simply shifted in the socket, or even a tooth that has no external signs of injury. Patients may come in with an unexplained toothache and no visible cracks or chips to the tooth and learn that the pulp is inflamed, perhaps due to an injury that occurred days or weeks prior.
Unlike other types of inflammation in the body, when the pulp of a tooth is inflamed, it won’t simply resolve on its own. Left untreated, pulp inflammation can lead to severe pain and can cause an abscess to form.
Repeated Dental Procedures
A tooth that has had multiple dental procedures may eventually need a root canal due to pulp damage. Rather than extracting the affected tooth, a root canal allows you to keep it in place, which is the best outcome for your oral health. After your root canal treatment, a crown will be used to restore function, appearance, and strength to the tooth.
A defective crown can lead to deep decay that reaches the pulp of a tooth, or it can cause injury to the tooth structure underneath, inflaming the pulp tissue. In either case, a root canal removes the damaged pulp, then a new crown will be fabricated to replace the old, faulty crown that was removed.
How Root Canals Preserve Natural Teeth
No matter the reason for your root canal, the process is the same. Your tooth is opened in order to access the pulp, then the pulp is removed and the roots are shaped. The chamber is cleaned and a material called gutta percha is used to replace the removed pulp and seal the tooth to prevent infection. Your tooth is restored with a crown or dental filling. You’ll be able to enjoy your natural smile, continue to eat all of your favorite foods, and the need for ongoing dental work will be limited after root canal treatment.