When Is Root Canal Therapy Needed?

tooth examination is being performed

You’ve noticed that your tooth is a bit sore. Even though it’s only causing mild discomfort, you can’t help but worry. The longer you ignore your toothache, the worse it gets. Is it time to call the dentist?

You could be dealing with a root canal infection. The tooth’s root canal can become infected if bacteria enter the innermost layers of the tooth. This can happen when you get a cavity, a chipped or cracked tooth, or if the tooth is damaged by blunt force. 

Left untreated, a root canal infection can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and the eventual loss of the tooth. It may even lead to infections in your other teeth. 

Do you need a root canal? In this article, we’re going to help you answer this question and tell you a bit more about this common treatment:


The Structure of a Tooth

To understand how root canal treatment works, it helps to know a bit about the tooth itself. Here’s a brief overview:

The outermost layer is called the enamel. It’s a barrier that protects the innermost layers from extreme temperatures, decay, or impact damage. The enamel is white and made up of a mineral called calcium phosphate. 

Beneath the enamel is dentin, a layer that has a yellow hue. It’s not as strong as enamel, but it serves the same purpose: To protect the pulp of your tooth. It also helps support the enamel overtop. Dentin is incredibly sensitive; when tooth enamel wears away, your teeth will be more sensitive to hot and cold foods/drinks.

Finally, there’s the pulp chamber. This is the soft tissue in the centre of your tooth. It contains the tooth’s nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels, which deliver nutrients to the tooth. When bacteria enter the pulp chamber, it causes pain in the nerve tissue of your teeth and leads to an infection. 

During endodontic surgery, your dentist will remove any infected material from your tooth, including the pulp. You might be wondering how the tooth can survive without the pulp. But once the tooth is fully developed, it receives nourishment from the surrounding tissues rather than the pulp chamber.


Warning Signs of Root Canal Infections

The sooner you receive treatment for an infected tooth, the higher your chances are of saving the tooth. Otherwise, you may require an extraction. 

Prevention is the key to excellent oral health. Watch for these signs that you need a root canal:

  • Persistent and sharp pain. As you might have guessed, tooth pain is the number one sign of inflamed or infected pulp. If you ignore a dull ache, it can turn into throbbing pain. The pain may come in waves. Even if your tooth doesn’t hurt constantly, severe pain is always a cause for concern. When your tooth hurts, don’t ignore it. 
  • Increased sensitivity. Do extreme temperatures cause you discomfort? If the nerves of your tooth are exposed, any hot or cold things will be extremely sensitive.
  • Swollen, tender gums. Bacteria from an infection may affect the surrounding tissues. If your gums look red, puffy, or they bleed whenever you brush, you may have an infection. 
  • Numbness. If your toothache suddenly goes away, you might think that the issue has resolved itself. Unfortunately, it may be a sign that the nerve of the tooth has died, resulting in a loss of sensation.
  • Discoloured tooth. Your damaged tooth may take on a grey or black colour if the nerves die.

Have you noticed any of these symptoms? If so, contact your dentist ASAP! Treating tooth problems early can prevent an infection from spreading.


The Root Canal Treatment Process

Root canals have come a long way in recent years. Now, the procedure itself is not that different from getting a cavity filled. 

Even though a root canal procedure takes longer than a filling, that doesn’t mean it’s more painful. Your dentist will administer numbing medication so that your dental procedure is as painless as possible. 

Many patients wonder: Does a root canal hurt? At Affinity Dental, we use local anaesthesia that will numb the area around your tooth, preventing you from feeling any pain.

Once the local anaesthetic takes effect, your dentist will apply a dental dam. This rubber dam will isolate the tooth and prevent saliva from interfering with your dental treatment.

Next, your dentist will drill into the tooth to create an access hole. This allows them to remove the dental pulp infection and disinfect the area. 

After all the harmful bacteria are removed, they need to replace the space using root canal filling material. In some cases, the dentist will use a temporary material and finish the procedure at a later date.

Now that the area is sealed, the tooth is infection-free! The structure may need some additional support after your procedure; your dentist may recommend a crown to cap the tooth. With a porcelain crown, the treated tooth will look just like a natural tooth.


Recovering From Root Canal Treatments

You can expect to feel sore after your endodontic treatment. What can you do to reduce your pain and speed up the healing process? We’ve put together a few recovery tips to help you out:

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication. Ibuprofen will help reduce swelling and alleviate your discomfort. 
  • Apply an ice pack. Is your cheek swollen? Applying an ice pack can help numb the area, reduce tooth pain, and bring down inflammation. 
  • Eat soft foods. Try to stick to softer foods in the days following your root canal surgery. 


Book Your Endodontic Treatment Today

If you need a root canal in Winnipeg, call Affinity Dental! We can eliminate your pain and restore the chewing function of your tooth. With years of experience performing root canals, you can trust that you’ll be in good hands. 

Don’t let root canal pain ruin your day. Our dentists can save you from losing a tooth to infection. To schedule your endodontic therapy or discuss the cost of a root canal, contact us today!