If decay becomes extensive enough, sometimes a root canal is necessary to preserve a tooth. The "root canal" is actually the space within the tooth in which the pulp and nerve are encased. In a root canal procedure, your Endodontist removes the nerve and pulp, then cleans and seals the tooth. An Endodontist undergoes two to three years of additional training after earning his or her dental degree.
The nerve in a tooth detects the sensation of heat or cold, but is otherwise nonessential to the health and function of your teeth. Damaged nerve or pulp tissue will break down and allow bacteria to spread, leading to infection, an abscessed tooth, or even bone loss. The root canal procedure stops the spread of infection and restores the tooth to healthy function. Severe tooth pain when biting or chewing, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, swelling and tenderness of the gums, and tooth discoloration may all be signs of a needed root canal.
A thorough examination, including x-rays, will help determine a course of action. If infection is present, medication and a temporary filling may be needed to give the tissue at the site time to heal before the procedure is completed. Depending on the amount of decay, the tooth may simply be sealed, or may require additional restoration such as a crown to protect the tooth and maintain its full function.
Over-the-counter pain medications are usually sufficient to control any post-procedural discomfort, and most patients may return to normal activities the following day. Chewing with the affected tooth should be minimized until the root canal procedure has been completed and the permanent filling or restoration has been placed.
For more information, please talk to any of our friendly and helpful team members.