Root canal treatment is needed for two main reasons. The first is an infection. An untreated cavity is a common cause of pulp infection. The decay erodes the enamel and dentin of the tooth until it reaches a root canal. This allows bacteria to infect the pulp. Antibiotics can’t get to infections inside teeth. The inflammation caused by the infection reduces the blood supply to the tooth. The reduced blood supply also keeps the pulp from healing.
The second reason for a root canal is damage to the pulp that can’t be fixed. Trauma or a fractured tooth can damage the pulp. So can a lot of restoration, such as several fillings placed in the same tooth over a period of time. Sometimes, common dental procedures, such as preparing a tooth for a crown, can hurt the pulp. Then the tooth might need a root canal.
If root canal treatment is not done, an infected tooth may have to be extracted. It is better to keep your natural teeth if you can. If a tooth is missing, neighbouring teeth can drift out of line. They also can be overstressed from chewing. Keeping your natural teeth also helps you to avoid other treatments, such as implants or bridges. Also, if you ignore an infected or injured tooth the infection can spread to other parts of your body.
Signs and Symptoms
If you have an infection of the pulp, you may not feel any pain at first. But if it is not treated, the infection will cause pain and swelling. In some cases, an abscess will form.Your tooth might need a root canal if:
- It hurts when you bite down on it, touch it or push on it
- It is sensitive to heat
- It is sensitive to cold for more than a couple of seconds
- There is swelling near the tooth
- It is discoloured (whether it hurts or not)
- It is broken
Length of Treatment
Root canal treatment can be done in one or more visits. It depends on the situation. An uncomplicated root canal treatment often can be completed in one visit. Some teeth may be more difficult to treat because of where they are in the mouth. Some teeth have more roots than other teeth. Treating a tooth with many roots takes longer. Some teeth have curved root canals that are difficult to find. If you have an infection, you will visit the dentist several times so that he or she can make sure that the infection is gone.
After Root Canal Treatment
In most cases, the tooth will need a crown. A crown will help to restore the tooth’s strength and protect it from cracking. If a crown is indicated it should be placed soon after having root canal treatment.