Root canals are extremely common dental procedures — over 14 million are done every year to help preserve your natural teeth. Though most people associate a root canal with pain, the pain actually comes before the procedure, from badly decayed or infected teeth whose nerve is either dead or dying. You’re completely numb during treatment, and once the dentist is through, your tooth will be absolutely pain-free.
At the dental office of Dr. Raul Molina in Miami, Florida, we specialize in performing nonsurgical root canals for a variety of tooth problems. Your oral health is of paramount importance to us, and we’ll do everything we can to make your procedure as anxiety- and pain-free as possible. Here’s what you need to know.
The part of your teeth you see is a hard enamel shell that covers the entire tooth structure. It’s what lies underneath the shell that’s important in a root canal. Directly below is the pulp chamber, a soft area that houses blood vessels, connective tissue, and the sensitive nerve.
The tooth’s nerve runs inside the “root,” the foundation for the structure that’s anchored in the jaw bone. Depending on the tooth, there can be from one to three canals. Each of the canals stretches from the root tip in the bone up into the pulp chamber.
Though the pulp is generally well-protected by the enamel layer, it can become irritated, inflamed, or infected because of deep tooth decay, large fillings, a cracked or chipped tooth, repeated dental procedures on that tooth, or facial trauma.
When damaged, the pulp breaks down, allowing bacteria to multiply in the chamber. Together with dying tissue, they may cause a pus-filled pocket at the end of a tooth’s root known as an abscess, or an infection within the canal that can cause:
- Swelling, either localized or spreading to other areas
- A hole in the side of the tooth
- Bone loss around the root tip
- Drainage problems, from the root into the gums, or through the cheek into the facial skin
A tooth’s nerve serves an important role in growth and function in its early stages, but once the tooth has erupted through the gums, its only function is as a sensory tool, providing sensations of hot and cold in the mouth. As a result, if you need to remove it for a root canal, you won’t impair the tooth’s function. The tooth itself will, however, become weaker and more vulnerable to fractures. That’s why most dentists finish a root canal by placing a dental crown on top to provide additional support.
Signs you’re a candidate for a nonsurgical root canal
A 2016 study found that symptoms indicating the need for a root canal vary depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection; however, there are some common signs you may need the procedure.
Persistent tooth pain
Pain is probably the most consistent symptom of a tooth needing a root canal. You may experience the pain deep in the tooth’s bone, or it may be referred to your jaw, face, or other teeth. It may be constant, or it may come and go, but it always returns. It’s a pretty good indication that your nerve is in trouble.
Of course, tooth pain can come from other sources, including gum disease or a sinus infection, but you should always make an appointment to check it out. Early diagnosis and treatment generally lead to better outcomes, no matter the source.
Sensitivity to hot and cold
If you experience pain when you put something hot or cold in your mouth, and if it lingers even when you’ve stopped eating or drinking, the blood vessels and nerves in your pulp chamber may well be damaged and need a root canal procedure.
Tooth discoloration can come from many causes, but an infection of the pulp can damage the tooth root, causing the whole tooth to become grayish-black. If you have a tooth with a decidedly unhealthy color, make an appointment to see Dr. Molina so that he can diagnose the problem
Swollen gums can come from periodontal disease, but if the swelling is near the painful tooth, it may signal the tooth requires a root canal. The swelling comes from the buildup of acidic waste products in dead pulp tissue, and it may or may not be painful to the touch.
If you’re experiencing severe tooth pain and related swelling, you need to see a dentist. Give Dr. Molina’s office a call at (305) 614-0211 to have it checked out, or schedule a consultation online. A nonsurgical root canal can relieve the pain and just might save your tooth as well.