Once your adult teeth come in, you have them for the rest of your life. Like any other body part, teeth become subject to wear and tear over time. In a few cases, injury may occur to the nerve, which is the pulp laying inside the enamel coating. When that happens, the nerve dies and, over time, starts to cause changes in the bone surrounding it. When the nerve dies, your dentist may suggest a root canal to replace the dead nerve with a substance that helps support the bone and root.
You might not even notice you’re in need of a root canal. If the nerve has just begun to die or an injury that will lead to this, such as a deep break crack that extends into the gum area or exposes the nerve, you may not feel any pain. In these cases, the dentist may discover the problem with an x-ray or other test during a routine visit.
An abscessed tooth is often an indicator that something has happened to the nerve. The area becomes infected and fills with pus, which can cause face swelling, pain and the foul taste of pus that drains. You may also have a sore on your gums.
Other symptoms that need to be evaluated, but won’t necessarily lead to a root canal, include:
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
- Pain when chewing on the infected tooth
- Discoloration in the tooth
After the dentist has deadened the area of the infected tooth, he will isolate it from the surrounding teeth with a small piece of rubber called a “dam”. This is done to thoroughly clean the area and keep it from becoming infected with bacteria.
Next, a hole is drilled to expose the nerve and the dead nerve. Any other decay on the tooth is removed. He will then place a “post” inside to help support the new filling, fill the hole with gutta-percha and seal it in place.
Once this has been completed, you may need to have a crown put on the tooth as added protection.