Root canals, also referred to as endodontic therapy, are needed when the nerve of a tooth becomes infected. It involves removing the infection in order to save the tooth.
- Deep tooth decay
- Injury or trauma to the tooth. This can sometimes cause the nerve to die or become exposed and infected, and sometimes it can take a couple of years before nerve damage is apparent.
- Severe toothaches or pain when biting into food
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- An abscess on the gums
- Swelling and/or tenderness of gums
- Blackening of the tooth
- Sometimes no symptoms are present
Reasons for root canal therapy:
- Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth)
- Infection or abscess have developed inside the tooth or at the root tip
In root canals, the pulp (all living tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria and any decay in the tooth are removed. The inside of the tooth is thoroughly irrigated (cleaned) to disinfect the tooth, and then filled with a rubbery substance called gutta-percha and a sealant. Endodontic therapy should ideally be done before the infection can get into the bone, before pain and swelling become extreme. The root canal process restores the function of the tooth and prevents the need for an extraction. Removing the tooth as an alternative ultimately tends to be more costly and can cause problems for adjacent teeth.
Regular dental examinations, good oral hygiene practices, and having your teeth checked as soon as any pain or other symptoms occur all can prevent severe dental problems and aid in the life of your root canal treatment if one is needed.