Other possible symptoms are swelling and/or tenderness or even an abscess (on the gums). But sometimes there can be no symptoms present.
Root canal therapy is necessary because the tooth will not heal by itself. Without treatment, the infection will spread and the bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate. Pain usually worsens until one is forced to seek emergency dental attention. The only alternative is usually extraction of the tooth, which can cause surrounding teeth to shift crookedly, resulting in a bad bite. Though an extraction is cheaper, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which can be more expensive than root canal therapy. If you have the choice, it’s always best to keep your original teeth.
A root canal is a procedure done to save the damaged tooth by cleaning out the diseased pulp and reshaping the canal. The canal is filled with a rubberlike substance called gutta–percha or another material to prevent recontamination of the tooth. The tooth is then permanently sealed, with possibly a post and/or a crown made of porcelain or metal alloy. This enables patients to keep the original tooth.
What is involved in root canal therapy?
Once your general dentist performs tests on the tooth and recommends therapy, he or she can perform the treatment or refer you to an endodontist (a pulp specialist). Treatment usually involves one to three appointments.
First, you will probably be given a local anesthetic to numb the area. Sometimes a rubber sheet may be placed around the tooth to isolate it. Next, an opening is drilled from the crown into the pulp chamber, which, along with the root canal, is cleaned of all diseased pulp and reshaped.
Medication may be inserted into the area to fight bacteria. Depending on the condition of the tooth, the crown may then be sealed temporarily to guard against recontamination, the tooth may be left open to drain or the dentist may go right ahead and fill the canals.
If you’re given a temporary filling, usually on the next visit it’s removed and the pulp chamber and canal(s) are filled with gutta-percha or another material to prevent recontamination. If the tooth is still weak, a metal post may be inserted above the canal filling to reinforce the tooth. Once filled, the area is permanently sealed. Finally, a crown is normally placed over the tooth to strengthen its structure and improve appearance.
Natural tissue inflammation may cause discomfort for a few days, which can be controlled by an over-the-counter analgesic. A follow-up exam can monitor tissue healing. From this point on, brush and floss regularly, avoid chewing hard foods with the treated tooth, and see your dentist regularly.