A root canal treatment is needed when the pulp tissue inside a tooth is inflamed or infected. The pulp is removed, then the tooth chamber and roots are cleaned, disinfected, and filled with a material called gutta percha. But when do you need a root canal? How does a root canal save a tooth? Here are the reasons your dentist or endodontist might recommend root canal treatment.
When cavities are caught early, they can be treated by a general dentist with a dental filling. If they’ve progressed a bit further, they may require a dental crown. Once decay reaches the pulp of your tooth, however, you will need a root canal.
This deep decay causes the pulp to become inflamed or infected. You’re likely to experience pain whenever you chew or bite down and have painful sensitivity to hot and cold. You might also notice that your gums are swollen or dark, and there may be a small white pimple-like bump on the gum tissue near your painful tooth. These are all signs that your tooth is infected and that prompt endodontic care is needed to save it.
Dental crowns are commonly used to restore tooth structure that was removed to treat tooth decay or to hold a dental bridge in place. When a crown doesn’t fit securely or becomes damaged, bacteria can seep in and cause the remaining tooth structure to decay. If this decay is deep and reaches the pulp, a root canal will be needed to treat it.
Your crown will be removed, then the natural tooth structure is opened in order to access the pulp. Once your root canal is complete, you will likely need to have a new crown fabricated and placed onto the treated tooth.
Repeated Dental Procedures
If you’ve needed to have repeated dental procedures on a single tooth, the pulp may become compromised. When this occurs, the tooth must either be extracted or a root canal must be performed in order to save it.
Some dental trauma is obvious—you fall and break a tooth or you’re in a car accident and a tooth is knocked out, for example. Other times, you might bite into something hard and not realize you’ve cracked a tooth until a few weeks later. Cracks are not always visible to the naked eye, which means they may not be diagnosed until the pulp becomes inflamed or infected and you’re experiencing pain.
There are many types of dental injuries, but if the injury reaches the pulp, they all require either a root canal or extraction. Root canals are the preferred treatment option because they allow us to save your natural tooth. Still, there are times when a fracture extends below the gum line and an extraction may be the only option available.
When you have a choice between an extraction and a root canal, we strongly recommend choosing a root canal. With an extraction, you’ll have to eventually replace your missing tooth, which can be costly, time-consuming, and risky. Bridges can break, dental implants can fail, but keeping your natural tooth has the highest likelihood of success.