Constant tooth pain is never normal and often a sign that a tooth has become infected. When a tooth is infected, bacteria penetrate the tooth structure and damages the internal nerves and pulp tissue within. Without treatment, the infection can spread to surrounding teeth, infect other parts of your body, and even cause you to lose your tooth.
Tooth Infection Treatment
We offer gentle and effective root canal treatment to remove infection and save your oral health. Root canal therapy is generally the most feared dental procedure. Contrary to what most believe, root canal treatment is actually a pain-free procedure and ultimately relieves tooth pain and saves your natural tooth! Our dedicated team at The Smile Centre will help put your fears at ease.
What is Root Canal Treatment?
In the past, seriously decayed and infected teeth resulted in removing teeth. This was often the only option. Modern dentistry changed all the way we do dentistry. A root canal procedure becomes necessary when infection has spread into the inner chambers of the teeth. The dentist removes the affected tissue and seals the sterilized chamber. Voila! Your tooth is restored to its former strength and structure.
“Root canals” are also called endodontic treatment, or endodontics.
The only way to know if you need a root canal is to visit our dentists. Give us a call if you are concerned about symptoms. Common signs of severe tooth infection include:
- Constant tooth pain
- Sensitivity, especially in reaction to hot and cold beverages or food
- Constant bad breath
- Pain when you bite and chew
- Facial swelling
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Swollen, tender gums or an abscess on gums
You should seek emergency care if you have swelling and a fever. These symptoms could indicate a severe infection. Our dentists want to help you treat the problem before it gets to this point.
The Causes Of These Types of Infections
These infections affect the dental pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp is housed within the root canals. The dentist safely and painlessly removes the pulp during this procedure. The remaining tooth structure will be able to survive without the pulp. If left untreated, the infection can cause an abscess, which can lead to swelling of the face and neck, and bone loss around the roots of the teeth. Prompt treatment is essential.
So, what causes these types of infections in the first place? Here are a few common causes:
- Deep cavities
- Cracked teeth
- Chipped teeth
- Tooth injury or trauma
These things provide an opening through which bacteria can burrow into the dental pulp. The infection spreads if the pulp is not removed.
How Painful is a Root Canal?
The procedure itself is not painful. The entire treatment area is numbed first, so you will not feel anything the dentist is doing other than light pressure. With local anesthetic, you will be fully awake. If desired, we offer nitrous oxide for all dental procedures including root canal therapy. We also offer oral sedation if you would like to be sedated for these services. It is completely dependent upon your comfort level and preferences.
A little soreness and minimal discomfort in the hours following the procedure is normal, as the anesthetic wears off. The tenderness should go away within a few days.
Root canal patients experience relief that is well worth any post-procedure discomfort. Unless the nerve had been completely destroyed by the infection, you are likely experiencing a lot of pain because of the inflamed and infected dental pulp. You may also experience severe tooth sensitivity. Dealing with these symptoms on a daily basis is difficult and taxing. Root canal treatment will restore your tooth to its full function.
The Endodontic Procedure Process
The basic steps in the procedure are as follows:
- The tooth and surrounding area are completely numbed
- The tooth is isolated to keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure
- The dentist carefully removes the infected tooth pulp using special dental tools
- The root canals are cleaned and re-shaped so that no bacteria linger there
- An antiseptic rinse is used as a final way of killing any remaining bacteria in the root canals
- The root canals are filled and sealed with a biocompatible material
In most cases, a temporary filling is placed to close the opening.
The filling is later removed and replaced with a permanent dental crown or another filling.
Alternative options to a Root Canal
For any given dental problem, you likely have options. Our dentists are committed to making sure you know what those options are, whether you are faced with an advanced tooth infection or another dental problem. In general, we work with our patients to help them prevent severe tooth decay. Root canal treatment is often considered somewhat of a last resort, when decay has progressed beyond the enamel and dentin, into the pulp.
Each person’s situation is unique, but in general, tooth extraction would be one of the only alternatives to root canal treatment. The advancing infection needs to be stopped either way. In root canal treatment, the infected pulp and nerve tissue is removed, but the outer structure of the tooth is preserved.
In this way, a root canal makes it possible to keep your natural tooth. It may also be an option to remove the infected tissue and tooth entirely, and replace it with a dental implant, dental bridge, or dentures. Our dentists can determine if this is an option and help you make an informed decision about what to do.
Will I need a Crown after my Root Canal?
A tooth crown is one option for restoring the tooth that has been treated. Another common option is a dental filling. Some type of restoration is required, in order to protect the tooth, and to rebuild its structure and appearance.
Crowns are often recommended for molars and premolars. These teeth in the back of your mouth are the workhorses when it comes to chewing, so they need a restoration with a lot of strength and durability. Incisors and other front teeth may need a crown or a filling. We will let you know what your options are for restoring your teeth as part of root canal treatment.
What is recovery like from a Root Canal?
Healing up after the procedure is fairly easy and straightforward. Immediately after your root canal, your mouth will probably still be numb. It may remain so for a couple hours, so you may want to avoid eating anything until you’ve regained full sensation. If you are biting and chewing when your mouth is numb, it is very easy to bite your own lip or cheeks! It is normal to experience sensitivity or mild soreness in the treatment area once the numbness fades.
Most people are able to manage the discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen. In less typical circumstances, you may be provided with a prescription for stronger pain medication, if necessary. If your tooth is sealed in the same appointment as it is cleaned, then you should be able to start chewing with that tooth as soon as the numbness fades. But if you received the root canal cleaning and a temporary filling, you should avoid chewing on that side of your mouth until the permanent filling or tooth crown is placed at your next appointment.
The temporary filling is not as durable, so chewing on that surface could cause discomfort or could break the filling. Overall, most people return to work, school, or other planned activities the same day as root canal treatment, and certainly within the next few days.
See What Our Patients Are Saying
"If you are in need of a professional, efficient and friendly dental team then you need to check out The Smile Centre! One of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a dentist office. I highly recommend this office." -Cori
What You Can Do to Prevent Root Canals in the Future
Most people who have to get a lot of dental work done want to avoid further work in the future. Here are some ways you can prevent the type of infection that leads to root canal treatment: Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Floss once every day Talk to our dentists about whether you can benefit from a professional fluoride treatment
- Go to your routine dental cleanings and check-ups, every 6 months or as recommended by our dentists
- Limit your enjoyment of products with sugar (juice, soda, treats, etc.)
- Limit your between-meal snacking, especially of processed foods
- Avoid anything that increases the risk of chipping, breaking, or cracking a tooth (chewing on ice cubes;
- opening packages with your mouth; chewing on pen tips; chewing on hard candies and hard food)
- Have tooth pain or any unusual symptoms evaluated by the dentist
When you visit our dentists, we work with you to get to know your dental health history. We can then make tailored recommendations for maintaining optimal oral health.
Are Root Canals Covered by Insurance?
It depends on the policies. There are all sorts of dental policies, whether through an employer or from elsewhere. Most of them work like a discount program. Most have a deductible that you will have to pay before any insurance coverage kicks in. Some policies will cover up to a set percentage, like 80 percent, with the patient being responsible for the other 20 percent. It is important for you to review your policy details and call your insurer if you have any questions.