Most people are familiar with the term “root canal” because of its association with the dental procedure of the same name that is used to treat a severe infection inside the tooth. You may be unfamiliar, however, with what the root canal itself is and how to tell if it’s infected. To help you better understand the procedure, read on for more information about the root canal and signs of possible infections.
Tooth Pulp, Root Canals, & Infections
All teeth are filled with soft tissue consisting of nerves and blood vessels, also known as pulp. The pulp extends down into the tooth’s roots in individual channels called root canals. A single tooth has between one and four canals (some may have more, but this is rare).
When a tooth experiences severe decay that wears through the protective outer layers of the tooth (the enamel on top and the dentin underneath it), the bacteria reach the soft pulp inside of it and multiply rapidly. This leads to a worsening infection that can spread all the way down into the root ends and create a pus-filled cyst called an abscess.
Signs of an Infected Root Canal
Due to the sensitivity of the inner part of the tooth, an infected root canal is associated with acute pain, and it causes most people to call up their dentist for an emergency root canal procedure. If the infection has a chance to thrive down in the roots and develop into an abscess, it’s even more painful and needs to be treated immediately. Here are some of the main symptoms to look out for in the case of an infected root canal:
- Constant pain that is especially acute when biting down
- Sensitivity to heat and cold, even after the source is removed
- Swelling and tenderness around the gums, mouth, and face
- Foul-smelling drainage from around the tooth or gums indicating a ruptured abscess
- Pimple or lump appearing on the gums
- Darkening of the tooth indicating severe decay
Procedure for Treating an Infected Root Canal
Root canal therapy is a procedure intended to save a tooth that is severely infected. The procedure essentially hollows out the tooth by completely removing the pulp and cleaning out the infection inside. Since root canal infections are sometimes accompanied by an abscess at the root of the tooth, any abscess will need to be punctured and drained as well to avoid letting the infection spread to the rest of the body.
After the tooth is completely cleaned out and disinfected, it is filled in and sealed off to prevent the infection from reoccurring. Since the strength of the tooth has been compromised, it’s common to have a crown placed on top of the tooth to fortify its structure and to offer an added layer of protection from future infection.
Stono Dental Care offers a wide range of restorative treatments, including endodontics, or root canal therapy. We take dental emergencies seriously and will do everything possible to have you seen promptly to get the relief that you need. If you are experiencing pain and are in need of treatment, don’t hesitate to contact us immediately and we will provide you with quick and gentle care.
Be sure to check out our dedicated Root Canal Therapy and Endodontics info sections and FAQs, by visiting our main Root Canal Services page.
If you would like to learn more about the cost of a root canal, please visit our Financial Page for information on insurance, payments plans, CareCreditSM and our dental savers plans.