What is a Root Canal and Why Is It Necessary?

Root Canal Treatment

There are many myths that surround root canal treatments. Many people associate root canals with pain, but root canals don’t cause pain they relieve pain. The perception of root canals being painful began decades ago before the introduction of modern technologies and anesthetics. Today, root canal treatment is no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed. Most patients see their dentist when they have a severe toothache. The toothache can be caused by damaged tissues in the tooth. Root canal treatment removes this damaged tissue from the tooth, thereby relieving the pain you feel.


What is a Root Canal?

The term “root canal” has a couple different meanings. It refers to the actual passages within the tooth between the pulp and the tooth roots. The root canals contain nerves and blood vessels. Once an adult tooth has emerged from the gums, the tooth’s nerve doesn’t serve a specific purpose other than sensing heat, cold, and other stimuli. When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected, it is standard procedure to treat the condition and the associated teeth pain by removing the nerve and the infected pulp and thoroughly cleaning the inside of the tooth then sealing it. This multi-step procedure is referred to as a root canal.  A root canal cleans out the infected tooth pulp and also disinfects the canals of the tooth.  

Once the infection is resolved, the canal is filled in to prevent any further infection. Your tooth has been saved, but because it is no longer a living tooth with the pulp, nerves and blood vessels removed, it can be prone to fracture and can become more brittle. This new state of your tooth requires further protection. Typically, following a root canal, your dentist will restore the tooth with a crown to further protect it from further injury or infection.  A crown is a rigid tooth-colored covering that is stronger than enamel that preserves the structural integrity of the tooth and prevents it from breaking.


Why is a Root Canal Needed?

Root canal procedures can save you the challenges that can result from having a tooth pulled. Your teeth are meant to last a lifetime. When teeth become diseased or injured root canals can save them from extraction. Root canal treatment (also referred to as root canal therapy or endodontic therapy) is made necessary when an untreated cavity reaches all the way to this pulp.  Treatment may also be needed when deep restorations or trauma to a tooth cause nerve damage.  Once the pulp becomes infected, it can begin to eat away at the surrounding bone (this is known as a tooth abscess).  The pulp of your tooth contains many blood vessels and nerves. When the pulp becomes inflamed or infected, you can experience extreme discomfort. This condition cannot heal on its own. Ignoring the pain from a tooth infection, or masking the pain with painkillers will not help resolve your condition. If not treated, the tissues around the root of the tooth can become infected. If left to fester and spread this bacteria can damage the bone that holds the jaw. At this point, you will most likely lose the tooth entirely. Don’t let your condition get to this point! Dr. Niles can give you the care you need to save your tooth and relieve your pain.


What Are the Signs That You May Need a Root Canal?

Symptoms that indicate the pulp has become infected may include sensitivity to hot/cold or sweets, pain, swelling, pain to biting or pressure, and a bad taste in the mouth.  However, sometimes no symptoms are apparent and you may be unaware of any problem until a checkup. This is just one of the many reasons why it is necessary to make and keep your 6-month appointments. These examinations and cleanings can prevent small problems from becoming big issues.  Keep in mind that not all types of teeth pain mean you need a root canal. If you are in pain, it is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. Call and make an appointment if you notice anything out of the norm with your teeth or mouth.


Once You Know You Need a Root Canal Don’t Delay

If your dentist has told you that you need a root canal, don’t delay treatment.  Your infection will not get better, but worse. You’ll get more pressure and more swelling if you wait. You might get a bad taste in your mouth or might start to go numb. The infection could spread to more vulnerable tissues, like your heart. Your dentist will prescribe you antibiotics for the infection. Typically, your dentist will wait a short period of time to let the antibiotics work on your infection before your procedure is done so that it will make it easier to get you numb for the root canal procedure.  Tooth infections can cause serious, life-threatening issues if you ignore them. Take them and how they can affect your health seriously.


Call for a Consultation

If you are suspicious that you may need a root canal, call Niles Family Dentistry today to make an appointment. Taking care of symptoms when they hit is crucial so that your condition doesn’t worsen and cause permanent consequences.  Call today for a consultation at (720) 744-0001.  Niles Family Dentistry serves the families of the Niwot, Longmont & Boulder communities. We look forward to meeting you and your family.


Ashley Niles

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