Superficial decay of tooth enamel causes cavities. Left long enough, this decay burrows into the deeper reaches of the tooth and causes extensive damage affecting the nerve of the tooth.
When the damage goes beyond what we can treat with a filling, a root canal, or endodontic therapy, removes the nerve and allows the tooth to be restored to its original integrity.
During a root canal, we extract decayed pulp from the center of the tooth to reshape the nerve canals and seal them with filler. In the past, we would have had to extract the tooth. Thankfully, now we can save it with a root canal.
Once the root canal is completed, it is necessary to restore the tooth with a crown to restore the tooth's structural integrity.
When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected or dies, root canal therapy is necessary to save the tooth. It is generally comfortable treatment that can save your tooth and keep your mouth healthy.
You may realize that you have an infected tooth when--
The pulp becomes infected when bacteria invade the inner layers of the tooth. The tooth pulp is a soft tissue made up of nerves and blood vessels. It is contained in the pulp chamber that extends from the middle of the tooth down through the tooth roots.
Infection occurs most commonly through a deep cavity that allows bacteria through the enamel and dentin layers and into the pulp. Sometimes the pulp simply dies due to a fracture or a blow to the tooth.
To determine if your tooth has an infected pulp, we do a thorough examination. The exam often includes x-rays and sometimes includes checking the health of the pulp with a pulp tester. We may also apply heat or cold, tap lightly on the tooth to see if it is sensitive, look for changes in the tooth's color, or press gently on the gums next to the tooth to check for pain.
If we determine that you have an infected tooth, we talk with you about root canal therapy to remove the infection and save the tooth. It is important to treat an infected tooth in order to prevent the infection from traveling through the root tips and causing a painful abscess in the jawbone.