When a tooth is severely decayed, the central part of the tooth, the dental pulp, can become infected. The dental pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues that help a tooth grow and develop but are less necessary when the tooth is fully grown. When the dental pulp is infected, it can be very uncomfortable. The pulp can also become inflamed and painful if you take a blow to the mouth, even if the tooth seems unharmed.
Root canal therapy removes the dental pulp, eliminating infection and inflammation so the tooth can be restored and protected, usually with a dental crown covering it entirely. Unfortunately, the only alternative to root canal treatment is to remove a severely infected tooth, something we strive hard to prevent.
Generally, an infected or inflamed tooth is painful. It may hurt continuously or when you bite down. The gum around the tooth can appear red and swollen. There may be a small pimple on the gum where the infection has caused pus to build up. The tooth could appear discoloured.
When the infection is particularly severe, it can cause facial swelling and fever and a general feeling of being very unwell. If you experience these symptoms, you must seek urgent dental care as very rarely the infection can become life-threatening.
Ideally, if you develop a toothache, make an appointment to see us sooner rather than later. The more quickly we can treat your tooth, the sooner we can relieve pain and discomfort and the greater the chance that we can save the tooth. If the infection becomes especially severe, we may have no other option but to remove the tooth to allow the infection to drain.
There is no need to feel apprehensive about having root canal therapy as we ensure the tooth is completely numb before we begin treatment. Our dentist makes an opening in the crown of the tooth to expose the dental pulp before using special tools to remove all these tissues, including those that extend into your tooth roots, called the root canals. Once we are sure the tooth is cleaned, it is disinfected thoroughly. Sometimes, we may place topical antibiotics and temporarily seal the tooth to help eliminate a more severe infection. Once your tooth is infection-free, we can fabricate a crown to cover it and protect it, restoring strength and appearance.