Media portrayals of root canals often show the procedure in a negative and undesirable light, as if it’s one of the most unbearable dental treatments a patient can get. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In a lot of ways these misconceptions about root canal treatment can do more harm than good by deterring patients who might actually need root canal treatment from getting it done. The reality is that a root canal is just another dental procedure like fillings, which are done using modern day freezing techniques.
That begs the question—how do you know if you need a root canal? Keep reading this article to learn about root canals, how to know if you’re a good candidate for this type of treatment and how it can improve your dental health.
What Is a Root Canal?
The medical term for root canal is endodontic therapy. Dentists who specialize in root canal treatment or endodontic therapy are called endodontists. Your family dentist will most likely refer you to an endodontist if you require complex root canal treatment or dental care due to a particularly severe infection.
Root canal treatment is so common that millions of people undergo this procedure around the globe annually. So what is a root canal?
According to the Canadian Dental Association, “root canal treatment is the process of removing infected or injured tissue (pulp) from inside the crown and roots of a tooth”. Tooth decay is typically the result of a number of factors including poor dental care, plaque buildup on the gum line, periodontitis, and bacterial infections.
After removing the infected oral tissue, your dentist will disinfect the canal, reshape it as needed and fill and seal it up with gutta percha (a natural rubbery material that protects the area and prevents further infection).
The last step is to seal the opening of the tooth with either a temporary or permanent filling or crown to protect the affected area and prevent infection.
What Are the Symptoms of a Root Infection?
Since many root canal symptoms are also commonly associated with other dental or oral health issues, it’s very easy to misinterpret what’s going on inside of your mouth based on what you’re experiencing. If you experience any of the following symptoms in conjunction with one another and suspect that or more of your teeth may be severely infected, be sure to talk to your dentist regarding your concerns.
Mild or Severe Tooth Pain and Sensitivity
Whenever any part of your body is injured or damaged, your nervous system sends distress signals in the form of mild or severe pain directly to your brain.
Tooth pain is one of those arbitrary symptoms that can be a symptom of any number of dental health issues including tooth trauma or fracture, periodontitis, tooth decay, bruxism, or exposed dentin caused by eroded enamel.
A toothache alone isn’t enough to accurately identify or diagnose a potential root infection because in some cases, the infected tooth isn’t even the one that’s in pain. Sometimes, the pain can be displaced to a perfectly healthy tooth that’s in close proximity to the infected tooth. Pain related to a root infection will worsen over time and may eventually start to feel like a throbbing sensation.
Either way, tooth pain should always be investigated by your dentist to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and minimize your suffering.
Gum Tenderness and Swelling
Often associated with gum diseases such as gingivitis or periodontitis, tenderness and swelling of the gums is another subjective indicator of a potentially deeper problem. Keep in mind that gum infections can spread to the root if they’re not properly treated from the beginning. There are different types of swelling that can occur in the gums, making the cause of this symptom difficult to pinpoint. Just like tooth pain, the swelling doesn’t always occur near or on the tooth that’s infected.
In some cases, you may notice a large lump on your gum line. Indicators of gum swelling and tenderness related to a root infection include the formation of pimple-like boils, extreme inflammation, a tooth that appears misaligned, recurring gum pimples, and long-term swelling that doesn’t go away.
Deep Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is caused by harmful bacteria that penetrate the surface layers of your teeth by eroding the protective layer of enamel. These bacteria are born out of and thrive on the leftover food and beverage particles in your mouth. Eventually, they develop cavities in your teeth and work their way to the root of your teeth, infecting the pulp.
Once tooth decay advances to this level of infection, even the most stringent at-home dental care routine won’t suffice to reverse its effects. The infected material needs to be removed by a skilled dental professional.
Halitosis is the medial term for chronic bad breath. It’s a persistent foul smelling odour that’s expelled from your mouth when you have a severe oral infection. Tooth decay is the main cause of halitosis, but if left untreated for too long, then abscesses (pus-filled pockets) can begin to form throughout your oral cavity. The smell that’s emitted from a burst abscess is so foul that it can only be associated with an infected root canal.
While general tooth discolouration is a fairly common and even normal occurrence for a lot of people, having one tooth that’s a darker yellow or brown hue than all the others is a telltale sign that the tooth’s root may be infected.
The discolouration of the infected tooth can be attributed to the lack of sufficient blood flow to the pulp chamber. Much like when your finger turns blue or purple due to restricted blood flow, your tooth may turn a dark brown or yellow colour which indicates some level of nerve damage. If left untreated, the nerves will die and eventually continue to harbour more harmful bacteria, which will spread like wildfire throughout the rest of your oral cavity.
Preventative dental care can help you avoid going through the pain and discomfort of a root infection and undergoing root canal treatment. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss every night, and use a mild mouthwash rinse to kill harmful bacteria.
Lastly, be sure to visit your dentist at Princeview Dental Group in Etobicoke at least once every four to six months for a checkup and a cleaning. Contact us today to book an appointment!