Cavities and swollen gums are caused when bacteria in your mouth attack your teeth and gums. When these bacteria penetrate to the interior of your tooth it creates what we call an infected or abscessed tooth. This serious infection causes serious pain, threatens the infected and adjacent teeth, and can lead to a life-threatening situation.
A root canal removes the infection and restores the infected tooth to full function and good health. After a root canal, the infected tooth can function for decades without needing further treatment. And despite its reputation, a root canal isn’t painful — it actually reduces pain.
Do You Need a Root Canal? Symptoms of an Infected Tooth
An infected tooth is a serious condition that should be treated sooner rather than later. It may even be an emergency. Here are some of the symptoms that can let you know if you have an infected tooth:
- Spontaneous, throbbing tooth pain
- Lasting sensitivity to heat or cold
- Lasting sensitivity to pressure
- Persistent foul breath
- Swelling of your face or cheek
- Pimple-like sore on gums—may release foul-smelling and –tasting liquid when it bursts
- Tender, swollen lymph nodes
Not everyone experiences all these symptoms. In particular, pain and sensitivity are highly variable. You might have a serious infection but feel little in the way of pain. If infection symptoms are spreading from your teeth to your sinuses, you should seek urgent care — this can lead to a life-threatening situation.
What Is Root Canal Therapy?
The outside of your tooth is hard, mineralized tissue, but inside your tooth there is a vital, living part called the pulp or nerve. When bacteria penetrate the tooth they infect the pulp chamber. Since the pulp is the part of the tooth that experiences pain, when it gets infected the pain can be quite intense.
In root canal therapy, the infected pulp is removed from your tooth, including the tunnels or canals that run through the roots of the tooth. The tooth is then filled with inert material that helps support your tooth but can’t be infected. Finally, a dental crown is placed over the treated tooth.
Root Canals Lead to Pain Relief
Root canals have a bad reputation that is undeserved. Their reputation comes from the early days of the procedure when they were performed without anesthesia. In this situation, removal of the tooth nerve could be painful.
Today, though, anesthesia ensures your comfort during the procedure. Studies show that people who have a root canal experience significantly less pain after the procedure than they did before the procedure.
Root Canal or Dental Implant?
An alternative to root canal therapy is to have the infected tooth extracted and replaced with a dental implant. In most cases, it’s best to preserve your natural tooth if possible. A tooth that has been treated with a root canal will likely last as long and function as well as a dental implant.
In some cases, the tooth has been too damaged or is surrounded by infection in the gums. In these cases, a dental implant may be a better option.
The only way to know for sure whether a root canal or dental implant is the right choice for you is to talk to a dentist. To schedule a consultation about root canal therapy in Wilmington, NC, please call (910) 392-6060 or email Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.