Root canals have a bad reputation for being painful and scary, but it's undeserved. Modern root canals are painless, safe, and the best way to treat a tooth suffering from an abscess, or infection, of the root.
Abscesses: When Good Teeth Go Bad
An abscessed tooth is a tooth that has a bacterial infection in the soft inner pulp, the home of your tooth's roots. Abscessed teeth account for much of the pain associated with root canals; while the root canal is done under anesthesia and is generally a pain-free process, the abscess that comes before can be intensely painful.
Common symptoms of an abscessed tooth include:
- Intense pain in the area of the tooth, which can be lessened by holding cold water over the affected tooth (note: this is a temporary fix and the pain can be even more intense once the cold wears off. This is not an effective long-term treatment for abscesses.)
- Swelling, inflammation or tenderness in the gums and soft tissue surrounding the tooth
- Increase of pain when biting or putting pressure on the tooth
- Discharge of pus from the surrounding gums
- Fever or a feeling of illness or discomfort with no other obvious cause
Once a tooth abscesses, there are very few treatment options available. The tooth must either be extracted or a root canal must be performed. At Stonebriar Family Dentistry, we believe in preserving your teeth whenever possible, so we recommend a root canal in most cases of abscess.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal, or endodontic therapy, is a process that removes the infected pulp and dying roots from your tooth and seals the empty canals to prevent future infection. A root canal is usually combined with a course of oral antibiotics to ensure the infection is completely eradicated.
During your root canal, we will numb the area with a local anesthetic, and then Frisco dentist Dr. Chitre will open a channel to the inner pulp. Root canals are most often caused by untreated decay, so this channel is usually opened by clearing away the portions of decayed tooth in preparation for the root canal.
Once the pulp has been reached, a series of graduated files are used to clear out the pulp and roots of the tooth and scrub the canals clean. The root canals are sterilized and then filled with a rubbery substance called gutta percha. Gutta percha is used because it has a relatively low melting point and it re-hardens quickly, allowing us to fill the curves and imperfections in the canals easily. This will help prevent recurrences of infection in the treated tooth.
After Your Root Canal – Care and Crowns
Most patients experience immediate relief after a root canal. The area will likely remain tender for a few days, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient to manage the discomfort post-procedure. If you continue to experience severe pain or significant swelling around the tooth after a root canal, contact our office immediately for a follow-up appointment.
In most root canals, the treatment goes hand-in-hand with a crown restoration. There are multiple reasons for using a crown after a root canal. Most teeth in need of a root canal are already suffering from extensive decay, and often this decay is too large to be treatable by a simple filling or inlay. Removing the pulp and roots of your tooth also cuts off the flow of blood to the tooth, which can lead to brittleness. A dental crown will protect this now-vulnerable tooth from cracking or breaking.
Relieve the Pain of an Abscess with Safe, Easy Root Canal Therapy
If you believe you have an abscessed tooth in need of a root canal or if you have any questions about root canal therapy, contact our Frisco dental office today for more information and to schedule an appointment.