You likely associate the month of May with budding trees and blooming flowers, but did you know that it’s also Root Canal Awareness Month? We’re guessing, probably not. That’s ok. Despite the fact that over 15 million root canals are performed in the US annually, this procedure has a bit of a PR problem. And while we’re not public relations experts, we think root canals deserve proper attention.
What does a root canal involve?
Your teeth are made up of layers. Beneath the outer white enamel is a hard layer of dentin, under which is a soft tissue called pulp. Pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that help grow the root of your tooth during its development. A fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it. If the pulp becomes inflamed or infected it can cause pain and sensitivity. During a root canal, your dentist removes the effected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the root canal, then fills and seals the space with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. This acts as a permanent bandage and prevents bacteria or fluid from entering the tooth through the roots. Afterward, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection and will continue to function like any other tooth.
When do you need a root canal?
The most common causes of pulp inflammation and infection are severe decay and trauma to the tooth. If a cavity becomes large enough, it can enter your pulp chamber or nerve. When bacteria enter this chamber, it can cause pain and infection. As a result, a root canal is needed to save the tooth and reduce pain. Likewise, if your tooth cracks or breaks, there’s a good chance you’ll need a root canal, as trauma to the tooth can expose your pulp chamber, damage your nerve, and cause pain. Again, the nerve will need to be removed to salvage your tooth. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
How do I know if I need a root canal?
While sometimes a patient shows no symptoms (which is why it’s important to see your dentist regularly), the following generally indicate a root canal is needed:
- Severe toothache pain from chewing
- Your tooth hurts longer than it should after exposure to hot or cold temperatures
- Darkening or discoloration of the tooth
- Swollen and tender gums surrounding a tooth, or a “rotten” taste in your mouth
- Dental abscess
Is it better to remove the tooth?
When possible, saving your natural teeth is always the best option. Though today’s dental implants have evolved, nothing artificial can fully replace the look or function of a natural tooth. And, while It might sound simpler to just pull the tooth, replacing an extracted tooth with a bridge or implant requires additional treatment and may result in further procedures to neighboring teeth and supporting tissue.
Saving the natural tooth with root canal treatment has many advantages:
- Efficient chewing
- Normal biting force and sensation
- Natural appearance
- Protects other teeth from excessive wear or strain
If you think you need a root canal or are experiencing any symptoms of infection, reach out to our team today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and/ or schedule a consultation.