When Is a Root Canal Recommended in General Dentistry?

general dentistry Fairfax, VA

A root canal is a procedure that may be recommended in general dentistry when the inside of a tooth becomes infected or damaged. Root canals are one of the most common forms of treatments performed each year to restore and preserve teeth. Learning how the root of a tooth can become infected, what the signs of infection are, and how treatments work can help patients identify a potential problem and understand when a dentist may recommend this procedure.

Root canals defined

The term “root canal” refers to the procedure used to fix an infected tooth. It is also the name of the part of the tooth that is infected. The outer layers of a tooth — the enamel and dentine — create a hard shield that protects fragile innards, called pulp, which house nerves and blood vessels. Since this part of the tooth connects to nerves, an infection here can cause discomfort and pain in a patient. Removing the pulp is sometimes the only way to eliminate the pain.  

What causes the infection?

A number of factors can play into a tooth becoming infected. Unchecked decay that begins as a cavity can work deeper into the tooth until it infects the pulp. Damage such as a crack or chip can also lead to infection, and an injury can cause inflammation. Even a tooth that is overworked by dental care can become infected.

When is a root canal recommended?

Root canals are usually recommended in general dentistry when a patient shows signs of major infection or inflammation of the pulp. These signs include sharp pain in a single tooth, sensitivity to warm or cold, inflamed or sore gums, or deteriorating gums that appear darker than normal. A patient who experiences persistent pain should bring it to the attention of a dentist. The dentist may refer the patient to an endodontist to receive the procedure.

What does a root canal procedure involve?

A root canal completely removes the pulp from within the infected tooth. The excess space left behind is filled, and then the top of the tooth is sealed to prevent any bacteria from moving in and causing more infection. Teeth that undergo this procedure are usually topped off with a crown, which patients can receive back at their normal dentist’s office.

How does the tooth survive after a procedure?

Once an adult tooth is fully developed, it no longer needs to be connected to nerves and blood vessels to continue functioning. The tooth is able to survive off the tissues encapsulating it.  

How does a tooth need to be cared for afterward?

Chewing with a tooth that has recently undergone a root canal should be avoided until a patient can see a dentist. Once the dentist has checked that everything is correct, the patient only needs to care for the tooth like any other with proper brushing, flossing, and other oral hygiene habits.

Conclusion

Patients who live with tooth pain for long periods of time risk losing teeth to infection. Always make a general dentistry appointment to address such a problem as soon as it arises.

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