What is a root canal?
In the video below, Dr. Jerry Chueng answers frequently asked questions about root canals, treatment, and recovery.
A root canal is a dental procedure that gets rid of bacteria and infection in the tooth's root and prevents the infection from occurring again. This type of procedure is used when a cavity or damage to the tooth is below the gum line and into the tooth's root, which prevents it from being treated with a traditional filling. Instead, the dentist must address damage to the root as well as the rest of the tooth.
A root canal is an important dental treatment because, if left untreated, the infection can spread, causing serious health problems. It can also be quite painful due to the damage to the tooth and the infection, which can occur close to nerves in the jaw.
The Root Canal Process
The extent of the root canal depends on the spread of the bacteria and infection as well as damage to the tooth. The basic treatment involves the dentist removing the infected pulp within the roots of the tooth, cleaning out the canals, and replacing the space with a filling.
If the tooth itself is also damaged, such as from a cavity that spread to the roots, you may need a dental crown as part of the treatment. A crown is used to repair a seriously damaged tooth, such as a large cavity. The crown will protect the remaining tooth and allow you to use it normally when you eat and drink.
Prior to getting the crown, the dentist will prepare the tooth, which will involve filing down part of the outer layer of the tooth. An impression will be made of the tooth, which will be used to create a crown that will fit well over your tooth. Until the crown is ready, you will have a temporary crown put on the damaged tooth. Once the crown is ready, the temporary crown will be removed, and the dentist will secure the permanent dental crown to the prepared tooth.
When a tooth becomes severely infected, a root canal removes the nerve of the tooth to prevent a serious abscess or loss of teeth. Although root canals are notorious for being 'painful,' in actuality they help to efficiently relieve pain caused by traumatic injury, untreated cavities, or cracks and breaks. Once the nerve has been removed, a crown is recommended to strengthen the repaired tooth. You can always contact our office to talk through the right option for your needs.
Signs You May Need a Root Canal
If you take good care of your teeth and attend your regular cleaning and examination appointments, you may never need a root canal. However, anyone can be vulnerable to them. Here are some signs that you may need to speak with your dentist about a root canal for a tooth:
- You have persistent pain at the site, especially when eating and drinking
- You have a damaged tooth, including a portion of the tooth missing
- The site is very sensitive to hot and cold temperatures
- The gums are swollen at the area of the problem tooth
- The tooth is darkly discolored
- You have a cavity that was not addressed and has gotten worse
If you have any of these signs, it is a good idea to make an appointment for a dental crown so you can protect your teeth.
Remove an Infected Tooth to Prevent Further Injury
Q. How do I know if I need a root canal?
A. Only a dentist can determine if you need a root canal or dental crown. However, if you have signs of a root canal (see above), it would be a good idea to make an appointment for an examination. Some of the signs you may need a root canal include persistent pain, gum swelling, a damaged tooth, sensitivity, discoloration of the tooth, or a cavity that has not been treated.
Q. Do bad cavities always need root canals?
A. Not always. Root canals are needed to address bacteria in the pulp of the tooth, which is usually below the gum line. A dental crown is used to restore the overall shape and use of the tooth after a root canal. Even if you have a large cavity, your dentist may be able to use a traditional filling to treat it. Only the dentist can determine if you need a root canal to restore your dental health.
Q. Do I have to have a dental crown put on my tooth?
A. A dental crown is a cap put on a damaged tooth to restore it to its normal shape and use. Most dental crowns are used to ensure that you can use the tooth and to protect it from damage when you eat and drink. However, some crowns are only to restore the look of the tooth. If your dentist recommends a crown to restore your tooth's use, it is a good idea to get one. If the dental crown is recommended only to restore the look of the tooth, it may not be necessary. Your dentist can help you decide if you need a dental crown or if it can be avoided.