When it comes to dentistry, some may not be familiar with the term ‘endodontics’. But chances are you’ve heard of a root canal, which is the same thing. It is the process of removing damaged pulp from your tooth. Dental pulp is essentially the tooth’s blood and nerve supply.
Your tooth is made up of several layers. It includes a hard outer layer called enamel, an inner layer known as dentin and a soft tissue center called the pulp. This pulp contains all the nerves, vessels and connective tissue that keep the tooth healthy. When this pulp, however, becomes infected or inflamed, an infection will build up inside the tooth. If left untreated, it can cause pain and severe dental disease.
Many years ago, the only way to deal with damaged pulp was to extract the entire tooth. But new advances in endodontics are allowing dentists to save damaged teeth. Without a professional examination, it’s impossible to know for certain if you require endodontics. If endodontic surgery is needed, there are some warning signs to watch for.
#1: Ongoing pain even after a cleaning
It is normal to feel slight pain after a cleaning. After all, your dental hygienist is using metal tools to scrape off plaque and other harmful buildup. What is not normal, however, is continuous pain long after the cleaning is over. If you have damaged pulp, the pain will be severe and consistent. A general dentist may be able to treat the tooth using non-surgical means. But if the infection has spread, you may be referred to an endodontist.
#2: Severe sensitivity to hot and cold
When you consume foods that are hot or cold, it’s natural to feel a slight reaction in your mouth. But if the sensitivity is severe and stemming solely from the teeth, it could be a reason for concern. Extreme sensitivity can indicate the enamel on the teeth has worn away or that the inside of the tooth has an infection. In this case, endodontic treatment may be necessary.
#3: Tooth is painful to the touch
If even the slightest pressure on the tooth causes intense pain, you may need to see an endodontic surgeon. It is not normal to feel tenderness when chewing food or using a toothbrush. You may be willing to tolerate the pain for months or assume it is temporary. But this type of discomfort will only get worse, disrupting your quality of life. Schedule an exam with an endodontist to receive proper care.
#4: Abnormal discolouration
It is entirely normal for teeth to gradually change colour from consuming wine, coffee or tobacco. But it is not normal to see sudden discolouration, particularly in one tooth. When a tooth changes colour, it’s usually a sign that there is an infection spreading to the gums and jawbone. This major discolouration is usually a sign that a root canal is required to remove dead pulp.
#5: Swelling and drainage of gums
A root canal may be required if you notice any abnormal swelling or drainage around a specific tooth. When the pulp of a tooth is infected, it can spread to the gums and even the jawbone. Visit your dentist immediately before the swelling gets worse. He or she may refer you to a specialist if endodontic surgery is needed.
#6: You have an abscess at the root of the tooth
An abscess is a collection of pus, typically caused by a bacterial infection. If you have an abscess that starts at the root of your tooth, seek professional treatment immediately. A dental abscess causes significant pain and is not treatable without some form of endodontic surgery.
#7: You feel a tiny bump near the painful tooth
If you feel a bump on the gums near the painful tooth, you will likely need to see an endodontist. This bump may appear similar to a pimple and could cause a stinging sensation. The main cause of this bump is a bacterial infection, meaning a root canal is often necessary.
Endodontic surgery may seem overwhelming, but it is an effective treatment when performed properly. Endodontics can usually be completed in 1 or 2 appointments. Your tooth may be tender for about a week, but severe pain is not common. If this occurs, be sure to contact your dentist or endodontist immediately.
It’s also important to note that root canal treatment does not protect your tooth from other types of damage, such as cavities or gum disease. With proper care and regularly scheduled dental checkups, you can ensure the affected tooth lasts as long as your other teeth.
For more information on endodontics, please call Oakville Place Dental at 905-842-6030 or contact us here.