A root canal (also called endodontic therapy) is a common dental procedure. During the procedure, your dentist will remove the nerve and the pulp inside your tooth and seal it up. This procedure saves your tooth when it has extensive decay.
4 signs that you may need a root canal:
- You have a toothache, especially when chewing with that tooth.
- Hot or cold temperatures make your tooth hurt. This is different than mere sensitivity; the pain from heat or cold just affects the decayed tooth.
- Inflamed gums around the affected tooth.
- The tooth becomes discolored or darker than the rest of your teeth.
If you experience any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible; he or she will examine the painful tooth and determine if there is extensive damage to the nerve and pulp.
A root canal prevents further problems
Once the pulp of your tooth becomes decayed, it will continue to allow bacteria to grow. This causes infection. In addition, the decay may form an abscess (a pocket of pus that attaches to the roots of the tooth). An abscess can be extremely painful and can also cause bone loss, facial swelling, or even a hole in the tooth. Failing to perform a root canal on a tooth that has infection will most likely lead to the loss of that tooth.
Root canal alternatives
Most dentists feel that saving your natural tooth is the best course of action. However, if a root canal is not possible, you may have the tooth pulled. Your dentist will then replace the tooth with a bridge or implant so that you can still chew. Implants and other devices typically cost more than a root canal and other issues may affect your dental health; your other teeth and gums will lack the support that comes from a natural tooth.
Avoid a root canal:
The three best ways to avoid a root canal are:
- Practice good oral hygiene at home. Brush and floss regularly. Avoid sugary snacks (but if you must eat them, brush afterwards).
- Visit your dentist twice a year for a checkup and thorough cleaning.
- Schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately if you experience pain or sensitivity in a tooth; early intervention may prevent a root canal.