If you have a dead or dying tooth, a root canal treatment may help to save your tooth. It is really important to treat a root canal infection to prevent the infection from spreading and compromising your oral health.
What Is A Root Canal Infection?
When your dental pulp becomes infected, the infected material needs to be cleaned out and the canals sealed up to prevent reinfection. This is known as a root canal treatment or endodontic treatment.
The purpose of your dental pulp is to provide a lifeline to your tooth by providing it with nutrients and nerves. In years gone by, a tooth with an infected root canal would need to be extracted because of the threat it posed to oral health, but root canal therapy allows many patients to keep their natural teeth, and sometimes for as long as the other healthy teeth in their mouth. Root canal therapy has a success rate of between 90 and 95%.
Your dental pulp’s primary purpose is to feed your developing teeth but once the tooth is fully developed, it receives its nourishment from the surrounding tissues. This means that it is possible and safe to remove the pulp and still be able to keep the tooth intact. And while the tooth may not have any pulp, it is still alive.
If you do not have a root canal treatment and the infection spreads, it can spread to the other teeth in your mouth and your gums. In most cases, a root canal infection will not self-resolve and requires dental treatment. Sometimes, you may need to take a course of antibiotics to clear the infection.
What Are The Signs Or Symptoms Of A Root Canal Infection?
In the majority of cases, a diseased tooth pulp will present with an infection or inflammation. You may also experience
- Sudden pain
- Pain when chewing or biting down
- Swollen gums around the affected tooth
- Sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink
- A loose tooth
- Swelling in the face
In some cases, it is possible to have an infection of the dental pulp and not present with any symptoms. Dental x rays and digital photographs will help your dentist to make a diagnosis if this is the case.
What Causes Dental Pulp To Become Infected?
There are lots of potential causes of an infected root canal. They may include:
- Cracks or fractures in dental enamel
- Deep or untreated dental decay
- Trauma to the mouth
- A loose or cracked filling that allows bacteria to enter
- Teeth grinding
- Gum disease
What Happens If You Don’t Treat An Infection Of The Root Canal?
Untreated infections are unlikely to go away, and are more likely to spread, compromising your oral health.
If the infection is not contained within the dental canal, it will accumulate to form pockets of pus or abscesses. A big infection can cause problems that extend beyond your oral health and which may cause further complications such as fever and chills, blood poisoning, illness and swelling in the head and neck.
Without a root canal treatment, it is also possible for the infection to spread into the jaw bone, where it can erode the jaw.
An uncontained infection may cause you the loss of that tooth, which has an impact on chewing and speaking. If you lose one tooth and do not replace it, the other teeth are likely to drift to take up its space and loosen, which could lead to more bone loss.
What To Expect From A Root Canal Treatment?
It is quite likely that you will have to return to your dentist for more than one procedure if your infection is severe. The success of the root canal treatment is contingent on your dentist’s ability to remove all the infected material. Most patients require one to three visits of 30 to 90 minutes each, for a root canal treatment. Your dentist will let you know what to expect after your assessment but do be prepared to make a return visit.
Removal Of Infected Material
Old restorations, active decay and infected material must be removed from the tooth canal using special instrumentation. If your dentist can’t remove it all in one sitting, you may need to return.
Reshaping The Tooth Canals
Once the infected material has been removed your dentist must smooth out and reshape the tooth canals so they cannot hold bacteria later on. It is possible that this step may need to be repeated more than once. Your dentist may place a temporary filling on the tooth if you are going to have multiple procedures.
Filling The Canals
To protect you against future infections, your dentist will seal your tooth canals.
Placing The Crown
In order to protect the tooth and ensure that bacteria do not penetrate any weak spots again, your dentist will seal the tooth up with a new crown. Your tooth may have lost a large part of its structure and may need to be restored to enable you to bite and chew with force again.
To find out more about treatment for a root canal infection, or what you can expect from root canal therapy, please contact us for an appointment: (03) 9626 9581.