If you have experienced symptoms such as tooth discoloration, facial swelling, swollen and sore gums, toothache and pain while eating or drinking, you might need a root canal treatment. Even though it might sound scary, root canal treatment is a completely painless procedure usually done within two dental visits.
Root canal treatment (‘endodontics’) is needed when the pulp of the tooth is infected through decay or injury. Patients sometimes do not feel any pain in the early stages of the infection and in some cases, the affected tooth darkens in color, which signals that the nerve of the tooth has died or is dying. The infection of the pulp may spread through the whole root canal system of the tooth, which may eventually lead to an abscess – an inflamed area in which pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues surrounding the tooth. The symptoms can manifest in a dull to severe pain, and the tooth may be tender when you bite. This means you need a root canal treatment. Luckily, root canal treatment is not painful, and a timely treatment can save a tooth that might otherwise have to be taken out completely! If root canal treatment is not performed, the infection spreads and the tooth may need to be taken out.The procedure is performed using local anesthetic. The purpose of the treatment is to remove all the infection from the root canal. The root is then cleaned and filled in order to prevent any further infection. After the root canal treatment your dentist will monitor the tooth for a few years to make sure there is no reinfection.
In the past, a root canal treatment would often result in a darkened tooth. However, nowadays modern dental techniques are available and this does not usually happen. If any discoloration occurs as a consequence, the natural appearance of the tooth can be restored in several treatments. Root canal treatment is usually very successful and the infection rarely comes back. However, in case of a repeated infection, the treatment also repeats.
Unfortunately, the only alternative to the root canal treatment is to have the tooth completely removed because once the pulp is destroyed, it cannot heal, and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth. Also, the infection might spread to your gums. Even though some people say they prefer to have their problematic tooth removed, it is always better to do the treatment and keep as many natural teeth as possible, as long as you can.
After the root canal treatment, the tooth is usually safe. However, since we are talking about a ‘dead’ tooth, you may experience more tooth brittleness. Thus, some people may need a crown to provide extra strength and support to the tooth.
Root-treated teeth should be taken care of just as any other tooth. Daily tooth hygiene is absolutely essential. Brush your teeth in the morning and in the evening and at least once the day with fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily and rinse with a mouthwash. Reduce sugary and acidic foods and drinks, and see your dentist for regular check-ups.
Root canal treatment is a simple procedure available to save infected teeth and make them fit and long-lasting. Using modern techniques, your teeth will be bright and healthy and there will be no visible signs that you have ever had your root canal treated. Therefore, it is advisable to seek professional help as soon as you experience the symptoms.