Although your teeth are meant to last a lifetime, damage from a deep cavity that is not removed can cause the nerve inside of your tooth to become infected. This infection can irreversibly damage the pulp, the network of nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels inside of your tooth. The infected pulp can then damage the bone surrounding the tooth, resulting in pain and swelling. If left untreated, additional bacteria, pus, and dead cells can cause a serious infection or abscess, leading to the spread of the dental infection throughout your body, bone loss around your tooth and/or the loss of the tooth itself. Signs and symptoms that you may need root canal therapy include swelling of your face and neck, severe tooth pain, swollen gums, and temperature sensitivity. All of these terrible signs and symptoms begin with a little bit of decay that is left untreated. If you allow the decay to get bigger and bigger and bigger without stopping it before it hits the nerve in your tooth, that is when you will need a root canal. It all starts with a little bit of decay….
Your tooth has two parts, the part above the gums is called the Crown of the tooth and the part below the gums is called the Root of the tooth.
The Crown is covered with a hard outer covering called Enamel. Inside of the Enamel is a soft organic core called Dentin.
Inside of the Root of the tooth is the Pulp. The pulp is made up of nerve tissue and blood vessels.
When plaque builds up inside your mouth and is not brushed or flossed away, it will release acid which begin to dissolve away the enamel. This is the beginning (incipient) stages of a cavity. This is the ideal stage to see a dentist and have the small cavity removed and a filling placed. When a cavity is this small, you cannot feel it, so the only way you will know it is there is to see a hygienist or dentist on a regular basis when you are not feeling any pain. If you wait until there is pain before going to the dentist, it is usually too late.
If the cavity in your tooth is not removed, it will grow and get bigger over time. Because the Enamel is hard, it takes a while for the decay to eat its way through this external protective cover of the tooth. It is important to see a dentist and have the Enamel Decay removed before it hits the soft Dentin that is under the Enamel, because once it hits the Dentin, the decay will move rapidly towards the Nerve (Pulp) in the center of the tooth. At this point, you may or may not feel any pain with your tooth. Always remember, absence of pain is NOT an indication that there are no problems with your teeth.
Once a cavity has breached the hard outer protective layer of Enamel covering your tooth, it will move very fast through the soft Dentin that surrounds the Pulp tissue. As the decay in your tooth enlarges and infects the Dentin, this is the point where you will usually begin to feel symptoms. Sensitivity to hot, cold, sweets and pain on biting will progressively get worse as the cavity gets closer and closer to the nerve.
To schedule an appointment to see if any of your teeth have Enamel Decay or Decay into Dentin, Click here to book an appointment.
The Nerve in the center of your tooth does not have the ability to heal itself once it becomes infected by decay. When the bacteria in the decay infect the nerve (Pulp), the nerve cells will begin to die. Dead cells, pus, and infection will build up inside of your tooth causing a severe Toothache.
As the dead cells, pus and infection build up inside of your tooth, they will begin to drain out of a hole at the end of the root. The body will try to wall off this infection to keep it from spreading into the blood supply (and from there, throughout the rest of the body). A tissue filled sac, like a water balloon will form around the infection. The sac at the end of your root that is filled with dead cells and toxins is called an Abscess. The Abscess will grow and grow as more toxic material drains from your infected tooth and will begin to put pressure on the gums and bone below the root of your tooth. You will feel this pressure as intense pain. As the Abscess grows you will begin to see swelling of the tissues, first inside your mouth and if not treated, eventually, your face will begin to swell. The infection that is inside of your tooth must be removed or your pain will become unbearable. There are two ways to remove the infection that is inside of your tooth. One is to extract the tooth, the other is to perform a Root Canal.
Root Canal Therapy (endodontic treatment) is designed to save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of having to remove it. It involves opening the diseased tooth, removing the infected pulp, cleaning the canals inside the root, and filling and sealing the tooth. Millions of teeth are treated and saved each year with root canal therapy – which, contrary to popular opinion, is similar to having a routine filling and can usually be completed in one or two appointments. Years ago, root canals were often painful. But with today’s dental advances, there is little, if any, pain with root canal therapy.
Alternatives include extracting the damaged tooth and replacing it with a dental implant, bridge or removable partial denture.
A root canal usually takes one or two visits. Dental X-rays are taken to determine the extent of the damage; you will receive a local anesthetic prior to the procedure. There are mild sedatives available which you can take just prior to your dental visit which can make the experience more pleasant if you have anxiety or are fearful. If the infection is severe, your dentist may also prescribe an antibiotic before your appointment.
Remove the nerve: An opening is made through the biting surface of the tooth to gain access to the pulp chamber. Using tiny dental instruments, the diseased pulp is removed and the chamber and canals are cleaned and flushed. Medication may be put into the chamber and canals to treat any infection that may be present.
Clean and disinfect the chamber after the diseased nerve has been removed. Antibacterial medications are flushed into the hollowed-out chambers inside of your tooth to make sure that all the infection has been removed prior to completing part 3. If the root canal requires additional visits, a temporary filling is placed in the biting surface to protect the tooth.
Fill the disinfected chamber inside of your tooth. When it’s time to fill the chamber (the hollowed-out area where the nerve used to be) the interior of your tooth is disinfected, dried and filled with a special filling material called Gutta Percha and a sealer, designed to ensure that the canals are sealed tight and protected from bacteria and saliva.
Once your Root Canal has been completed, your tooth will get dry and brittle over time. That is why it is important to strengthen the inside of your tooth with a Post. Once the post is placed inside of your Root Canal tooth, a Build Up can be placed around your post to fill any hole that was created when the decay in your tooth was removed.
Once the inside of your tooth has been strengthened with a Post and Build Up, the outside of your Root Canal tooth must be covered with a strong and protective restoration. This is done with a beautiful, white, porcelain crown matching the color of your other teeth. Now that your pain is gone…your restored tooth is both cosmetically pleasing and perfectly functional. If you follow good oral hygiene, your restored tooth could last a lifetime.
If you are experiencing dental pain and would like to discuss root canal therapy with SmileOn Dentistry, don’t wait…call to book a consultation appointment, today: (310) 881-8780.