What is a root canal infection?
Inside the root of every tooth is a nerve, with pulp surrounding and protecting the nerve and a blood supply that extends from the end of the root to your circulatory system. This space is called canal space. When an infection penetrates to the root it causes a root canal infection, better known as an abscess and can be seen on X-ray.
This is why the dentists recommend an x-ray to be taken during your routine visit.
What are the symptoms?
A heightened sensitivity to hot or cold beverages will be felt but sensitivity itself is not an indicator for root canal. Different people suffer a different degrees of pain. There have been cases where the abscess would cause severe pain, while some patients feel no pain at all! There are sometimes no symptoms as nerves die slowly over time. But a severe infection generally causes, extreme and persistent pain.
Can’t it be cured by medicines?
No. When the infection reaches the pulp, the surrounding tissues swell up pressing upon the nerve and blocking the blood supply. Which is why there is no way for medication to reach the affected area.
I hardly feel any pain. Can I delay my visit to the dentist?
You must not delay your visit to the dentist. Lack of pain may also be because of the gradual decay of the nerves. Spreading of the infection to the jaw bone can have serious consequences to your overall health.
What kind of serious consequences can cause if left untreated?
The abscess can get larger and literally eat away at the bone in your jaw. The infection could spread to the rest of the body through the digestive tract or the blood stream. Due to the proximity the infection reach the brain any time and become fatal. (This is very rare but possible).
What causes a root canal infection?
A lot of people think bad hygiene is the cause of all teeth problems, but actually it is just one of the causes. The hereditary hardness or softness of teeth also determines one’s susceptibility to dental problems. Soft teeth decay more readily than hard teeth and so need extra hygiene and care. Some key reasons include:
• Tooth Decay: A cavity, if not attended to on time, can result in the infection reaching the pulp chamber and infecting the pulp. Tooth decay is one of the top reasons of root canal infection.
• Old metal fillings shrink over time, triggering decay in spaces underneath it. Such decay may go undetected until you feel pain or temperature sensitivity.
• Clenching or Grinding your teeth, eating hard foods or chewing ice may cause hairline tooth fracture(s), leaving entry of bacteria into the pulp chamber. Biting something hard will increase the fracture, resulting in intense pain you can’t ignore. To ignore this problemby chewing on the other side of your mouth, is not a solution. Most people adopt this route, unaware that they’re not curing but making this situation worse.
• Trauma: People that were hit in the mouth as a child, can have the tooth get infected as an adult. Car accidents, work or sports related injuries, and falls that make you snap your teeth together can cause damage to the nerve that may or may not show up right away.
• Trauma cause by dental procedures: Deep fillings, replacing old metal fillings with composite (white) fillings, or having the tooth drilled down for a crown can be traumatic for nerves inside the teeth and cause the nerve to get inflamed. Inflamed nerves can sometimes settle down after a short period, or be very painful and require root canal therapy or extraction for relief.
What is root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment, is the removal of damaged or infected nerves and tissue from the inside of your tooth. A small opening is drilled into the tooth, removing the nerve, blood supply and pulp followed by complete cleaning, shaping, sterilization and filling up of the canal space, like a tooth nerve damage or tooth abscess besides having the tooth removed. A root canal treatment allows you to keep a tooth you would otherwise have to have pulled.
Are there any alternatives for root canal treatment?
The affected tooth must be removed. However just having the tooth removed is not the best solution, as it entails misalignment of neighbouring teeth, jaw and chewing problems leading to digestive problems as well. There are essentially two alternatives for those taking a root canal treatment:
• Dental Bridge: A dental bridge is built by grinding down the two teeth on either side of the space left by the pulled tooth, having crowns made for those two teeth with face crown attached in the middle to fill the void left by the pulled tooth. This dental bridge, when installed, fills the area and makes it look like you still have your tooth. Cleaning for the dental bridge is harder than a natural tooth, since you now have teeth attached to one another by the fake one in the middle. This alternative can turn out to be expensive depending upon the crowns to be included in the bridge plus the cost of removing the tooth.
• Dental Implant: A dental implant consists of a dental screw placed into the bone at the site of the missing tooth. A fake tooth (a crown) is attached to the screw after the area has healed completely. This process takes approximately 6 months of healing time and is also expensive. However, since it doesn’t require the grinding down of the adjacent teeth and is closest one can get to a real tooth, dental implant is a better option than a dental bridge.
Perhaps the most economical option to a root canal is placement of a crown. It can be cleaned like a normal tooth leaving lesser chances of developing decay. (Yes, teeth can still develop decay after having a root canal and crown so cleaning them is still important). Overall, a root canal costs less than a dental bridge or dental implant. You should research the alternatives to make an informed decision.
What if I already have a crown and need to get a root canal treatment done on it?
If a tooth is already crowned needs a root canal, it will be treated the same as regular tooth. A small opening will be drilled in the crown for the root canal and then filled with a filling material afterward. The crown will not be quiet as strong as it was before but should still function well. If the crown is fractured in the process, it will have to be replaced by another.
Will I experience pain after root canal treatment?
Some pain and inflammation or a ‘flare-up’ of the tooth may be experienced in the first three days following the treatment. This may be because of the dying bacteria inside the tooth that put off toxins as they expire. Usually it happens in only 1% of the cases. If you experience such problems consult your dentist. You may be asked to take a course of antibiotic medicine.
Most there is little or no pain after root canal, if done on time. If performed on a severe infection, the healing time and pain would be moderate to severe, lasting several days and lessen gradually.
Pain in chewing indicated healing and you may need to chew from the other side of your mouth until the pain subsides. If some teeth swell up and disrupt the healing process, you need to consult the Endodontist to adjust your bite.
I am still experiencing pain in the area. Why?
The nerve inside your tooth is gone, but there are still nerves surrounding your tooth where it enters the gum. These nerves can be irritates by the procedure or the abscess that caused all your problems to begin with, and can take time to heal.
What things should I take care of post treatment?
A fractured tooth can still have sensitivity after a root canal, and should be crowned as soon as possible. Avoid chewing on the tooth until your dentist has crowned it. Even after crowning, you may experience some sensitivity, which is normal like any fractured healing bone is sometimes sensitive.
If you experience sensitivity every time you consume hot or cold liquids after root canal, there may be another tooth involved. Extreme pain (which can’t be controlled by pain killers) after root canal is rare and should be reported to the dentist.
Root canal treatment can spell nightmare for nearly anyone that excruciating and persistant pain on one hand and the terror of complex procedure on the other. Avoiding or delaying the treatment is only bound to make it worse. Come to Dr Jains Dental Care, where we understand your fears and create an environment where pain takes a backseat and the treatment is transformed into a luxurious experience. Come dispel your fears and myths about Root Canal Treatment at
Dr. Jains Dental Care.