Every year there are in excess of 15 million root canals in the United States alone. It’s not uncommon for these patients to feel a little nervous about the procedure. Media and urban myths have made root canals the boogeymen of oral health care. This reputation is largely undeserved, however. For decades the technology supporting root canal therapy has improved. The modern root canal is nearly painless and is most known for its ability to relieve dental pain. Even better, it’s the best way to save a tooth that is experiencing pulp infection. Find out why Root Canal Therapy is nothing to be afraid of and how it helps your teeth.
Understanding Root Canals And Why You Might Need One
The term root canal is a shorthand for a procedure called a root canal treatment. The term ‘root canal’ actually refers to narrow pulp-filled channels in your teeth. When this pulp becomes infected, it’s often necessary to remove it to save the tooth. Saving your original teeth is the most important thing you can do for your oral health. This is why extraction is always the last choice your dentist will offer for an infected tooth.
Let’s start by exploring the anatomy of your tooth:
- Crown – The portion of your tooth that’s above the gumline
- Neck – The portion of your tooth between the gum line and root
- Roots – The portion of your tooth that secures it in your jaw
- Enamel – The exterior layer of your tooth and the hardest substance in your body
- Dentin – The middle layer of the tooth. It is slightly yellow, porous, and softer than enamel
- Pulp – The living heart of your tooth. While essential for a developing tooth, adult teeth can survive without it.
- Root Canal – The narrow channels within your teeth that contain pulp and can hide infection.
Now that we’ve covered the overall structure of the tooth let’s talk about symptoms. The below signs may indicate a root canal may be necessary for you:
- Severe Dental Pain – Dental pain is often an indicator that infection is present. Your pain will center on a single tooth or a region of your mouth. The pain will come and go in many cases, hitting like a wave when the tooth is disturbed. You may also discover that laying in certain positions aggravates the pain.
- Bumps on the Gums – When bumps appear on your gums, it’s often a sign of infection. These bumps, or fistula, are the result of infection happening in your gums.
- Temperature Sensitivity – If you’re noticing that your teeth respond painfully to heat or cold, you may have an infection. Thin enamel can also be responsible, especially if the underlying dentin is exposed. Dentin is a porous layer around your pulp and can transfer sensation.
- Swollen Gums – While swelling is a common sign of periodontal disease, it can also signal infection in the teeth. A tooth infection is likely if your gums remain swollen and the swelling is centered on a specific area.
- Darkening Gums – When gums start to decay, they tend to darken. This is a potential sign that one of your teeth is dying. The infection in the tooth may be causing the decay that makes your gums darken.
- Cracked Or Chipped Tooth – While this isn’t the result of an infection in the pulp, it can be the cause. The crack or chip may have created a way for infection to get into the inner tooth. A root canal can save these teeth.
These are the significant signs that a pulp infection may be present. If you’ve identified one or more of these symptoms, it’s time to speak to your dentist.
Consult Your Dentist For More Information About Root Canals
There’s no reason to be afraid of receiving a root canal. You can help ease your worries by speaking to your dentist about your upcoming treatment. They’ll be ready to answer any questions, clarify misconceptions, and explain the process. Root canals remain the best way to alleviate dental pain resulting from pulp infection. By saving your natural teeth, you’re giving yourself the best chance of lasting oral health. Make that appointment today!