If you have a tooth that has been affected by an infection, deep decay, or another type of trauma, you would normally be faced with a tooth extraction. However, root canal therapy, which has been used to treat teeth for nearly 200 years, is typically an option for people who would otherwise need to have a tooth pulled.
Root canal therapy is a procedure in which your dentist—or an endodontist, a type of tooth specialist—removes the material inside of your tooth. This tissue consists of blood vessels and nerves which keep your tooth alive. However, under certain circumstances, which we’ll look at in a minute, this tissue can become compromised.
During a root canal, your dentist in Asheville will remove this inner tissue and seal the chamber with a biocompatible material to prevent further problems with the tooth. Thanks to root canal therapy, you can avoid a tooth extraction, keep your natural tooth, and prevent further issues with the affected tooth.
What Exactly Happens During a Root Canal Procedure?
When you come in for a consultation for root canal therapy, your dentist will conduct an oral exam and take x-rays to determine if a root canal is necessary to save your tooth. If the inner tissue of your tooth is dead, infected, or at risk to be infected, a root canal procedure may be necessary to prevent an extraction.
At your appointment for root canal therapy, your dentist will use local anesthesia to keep you from feeling anything during the procedure. The dentist will then make an opening in the top of your tooth to reach the inner chamber, cleaning out all the material inside and sealing the chamber with a biocompatible material.
Once this process is complete, your dentist may use a temporary filling material to protect your tooth. People who have this procedure done on a tooth with a chewing surface, such as a molar, will need to have a dental crown placed on the tooth to protect it from further harm.
However, if you have a root canal done on one of your front teeth, you won’t need a dental crown and the filling material may suffice. The entire process can take up to two visits, unless your dentist offers same-day dental crowns, in which case you may be able to have your root canal procedure completed in one day.
Symptoms That Could Necessitate a Root Canal
The only way to know for sure if you need root canal therapy is to get a comprehensive exam and x-rays with your experienced dentist. However, there are a few signs and symptoms that could indicate that you need a root canal. These include:
- Experiencing sharp pain in a tooth
- Having severe tooth sensitivity when eating or drinking
- A darkened or discolored tooth compared to the rest of your teeth
- Having a strange or bad taste in your mouth, which could be indicative of a tooth infection
- Experiencing tooth pain while biting or chewing
- Seeing gum swelling near the affected tooth
However, since the nerve tissue inside your tooth is responsible for the feeling of the tooth, if this tissue is dead, you may not feel anything or have many symptoms. This is why seeing your dentist for regular appointments is important, as it enables you to stay on top of your oral health and catch problems early to prevent extensive treatment.
When a Root Canal Makes Sense
There are some instances, of course, in which a tooth extraction is the only option. However, in many cases, the tooth can be saved with root canal therapy. A root canal may make sense for you if you have the following issues with your tooth.
Trauma to the Tooth
Any type of trauma to the tooth, such as a crack or chip that has spread, a bruised tooth, or a tooth that’s been knocked loose may need root canal therapy. In some cases, it won’t be evident that there’s a problem with the tooth until days, weeks, or months later, when the tooth may turn gray (or another dark color) compared to the rest of the teeth. When this happens, the tissue inside the tooth has been affected, and a root canal will be necessary to restore the tooth.
A Deep Cavity
Cavities, like many types of dental issues, don’t typically show symptoms until the problem is severe. However, once the cavity has reached the inner tissue of your tooth, you may have severe pain, a toothache, gum swelling, and tooth sensitivity. At this point, the tooth won’t be able to be fixed with a normal filling. Instead, you’ll most likely need a root canal to repair the tooth. Remember, if the tooth is one used for chewing, you will also need to have a dental crown placed on top to complete the restoration.
As we’ve seen, a tooth infection can result from a deep cavity or trauma to the tooth, and may require root canal therapy. Gum disease can also cause a tooth infection and require root canal therapy. Some infected teeth may be too far gone and need to be extracted, but others can be saved with a root canal. Time is of the essence when treating an infected tooth, so seeing your Asheville dentist sooner rather than later can help you have your best chance at saving your tooth.
What to Expect During Recovery
Although root canals have gotten a bad reputation, modern technology and equipment make the procedure not much different than filling a cavity. After the procedure, you can expect your tooth to be somewhat sensitive. Your dentist will let you know what medications you can take for the discomfort.
You shouldn’t experience severe pain after a root canal procedure. If you are, call your dentist immediately to discuss your symptoms. You shouldn’t eat until the numbness of your mouth wears off from the local anesthesia, and only eat soft foods until your dentist clears you to eat all your normal foods again.
We Can Help You Determine If You Need a Root Canal
Root canal therapy can help you save teeth that would otherwise need to be extracted. Are you experiencing symptoms that could mean you need a root canal? Contact Saunders DDS today to schedule a consultation at (828) 277-6060. You can also request an appointment through our contact form online!