Root canals are dental procedures used to remove infected pulp tissue from the inside of a tooth. When dental pulp becomes infected, it can be extremely painful, resulting in chronic toothache.
A tooth is composed of three key components, including enamel (the hard shell), dentin (the soft middle layer) and dental pulp (the soft inner layer). Dental pulp — which is made up of nerve tissue, lymph tissue and blood vessels — is the most important part of the tooth. Exposure to oral bacteria, a fractured tooth, or powerful punches to the face cause dental pulp trauma. Root canal therapy then is necessary to fight off infection and prevent future tooth loss.
Root Canal Procedure
The root canal procedure involves hollowing out and cleaning the channels located below the pulp chamber so that the roots can be filed using flexible nickel titanium files.
Debris, such as nerve, lymph and blood tissue, bacteria and infection, is removed from the pulp chamber and its surrounding areas. The canals are cleaned thoroughly, shaped and filled with specific materials to thwart pain and infection.
Symptoms of Root Canal Infection
Minimal to severe pain, tooth discoloration, swelling and irritation in the gum tissue, and dental X-rays that show signs of infection are significant indications of diseased or infected nerves. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be a candidate for a root canal. The infection may lead to secondary oral health problems that may include dry mouth, bad breath, oral thrush, etc.
Causes of Root Canal Infection
Most commonly, root canals are required because of poor oral hygiene habits. In addition to gingivitis, gum disease, decay, etc., dental pulp infections may result from inadequate hygienic practices. Teeth can become infected due to severe tooth decay, cracks or chips. Failing dental fillings or dental crowns also can allow bacteria to seep into the dental pulp. Once exposed, the dental pulp dies, the body’s inflammatory responses take over, and the combined infection and inflammation result in a significant toothache.
Root Canal Therapy
Tooth extraction may be necessary in severe cases when a root canal will not save the tooth. The missing tooth can be replaced with a dental implant or dental bridge.
If you suffer from a toothache, it is strongly recommended that you visit your dentist for a thorough evaluation, since severe tooth infections can have serious consequences. More extensive medical treatment, such as hospitalization, may be necessary if an infection spreads to the head and neck.
The cost of root canal therapy varies depending on the severity of the condition and whether additional treatments are required. Dental insurance can help offset the costs of root canal therapy, though the degree of financial assistance varies depending on your level of coverage.