Many years ago a tooth with a diseased or infected nerve would have needed to be removed but with modern dentistry, it can be saved using a procedure called root canal therapy (endodontics).
Inside each tooth is a soft ‘pulp’ which runs like a thread down into the root. It is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues; providing sensations of hot or cold when you eat or bite into food.
If the pulp becomes infected and ultimately diseased, the pulp tissue will begin to die, bacteria will continue to multiply and an abscess can form in the gum supporting the tooth. The result is likely to be considerable pain for the patient and the tooth is at risk of requiring extraction. In fact, extracting the infected tooth may be the only way to remove an abscess so prompt treatment to prevent one forming is recommended. It is one of the many reasons, a dental examination every 6 months is also recommended – as the saying goes,“prevention is better than cure”.
The most common cause of pulp infection is a chipped or cracked tooth, a deep cavity or a filling that fails. All of these problems can let harmful bacteria enter the tooth’s pulp.
The signs that root canal therapy may be required:
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold drinks / food which doesn’t go away quickly.
- A sharp pain when chewing or biting into food.
- Pimples on your gums.
- Chipped or cracked teeth.
- Swollen or painful gums.
- Deep decay or darkened gums.
Fortunately and most of the time, root canal therapy is a relatively simple procedure involving a couple of visits with little or no discomfort. From the patient’s perspective it is little different to having a filling. The dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) removes the pulp, the root canal is cleaned and it can then be sealed off to protect it. The final step will be for your dentist to place a dental crown over the tooth to reenforce it. At her dental practice in Lakewood, Dr. Slate will of course offer you a choice of crowns including those made of porcelain.
If you continue to care for your teeth and gums, your newly crowned tooth could last you a life time.
To read more about root canal therapy, please visit the WebMD guide on oral care.