A root canal is a procedure that eliminates bacteria from an infected root canal, prevents reinfection, and saves the natural tooth. During the procedure, the pulp from the infected root canal is removed. Next, the inside of the tooth is cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed. It sounds more painful than it actually is.
The procedure itself is generally painless due to the use of local anesthetic, though there can be discomfort following the procedure. You typically manage that discomfort with over-the-counter pain medication. Actual pain associated with root canals is generally due to an infection around the tooth.
What causes root canal infections?
If you have an infection, there’s a likely chance that it will be painful. A tooth can become infected for a number of reasons.
- Cracked or chipped tooth
- Fractured root
- Damage to the tooth’s pulp
- Repeated dental procedures on a tooth
- Tooth decay
Tooth decay is one of the biggest causes of infection. Tooth decay typically develops beyond the tooth enamel, and the thickness and quality of the enamel can determine how long it takes for a cavity to form. A cavity can form within months, which is why it’s best to visit your dentist bi-annually.
When you don’t visit your dentist routinely, tooth decay is more likely to penetrate through the enamel and into the next layers of your teeth. The decay progresses until it reaches the tooth’s pulp, spreading the infection and causing pain.
What are the symptoms of an infected root canal?
Root canal procedures are meant to stop the infection and restore your natural tooth to its optimal health. Here are a few warning signs that you may need a root canal:
- Pain or discomfort, especially when applying pressure or chewing
- Pus discharge
- Red, warm, and swollen tissue near the tooth
- Bad taste in your mouth or bad breath
The procedure itself is not painless, but there is pain and discomfort beforehand from the infection. If you have any of the warning signs mentioned above, visit your dentist as soon as possible to get it taken care of. Your oral health is essential for overall health.