Whilst hard, your tooth is not solid. Within your tooth lies the dental pulp. The pulp predominantly consists of the nerve of your tooth. This nerve is important for sensations such as those experienced when eating hot or cold foods. When decay gets too deep, or you sustain an injury to your tooth, this may lead to a bacterial infection of the nerve and pulp. Treatment for this condition is known as root canal treatment. The aim is to relieve any discomfort and save your tooth from extraction.
An infected tooth will not always cause pain initially so you may be unaware of a problem. As the infection develops, so does the severity of the pain. Some symptoms to indicate an infected tooth are:
- A tooth with severe sensitivity when you bite your teeth together
- Sensitivity to hot and cold which lasts for longer than a few seconds
- Swelling of your face or gum near the infected tooth
- A tooth that is changing colour and becoming grey or black
- A tooth with deep decay
- A fractured tooth
- Breakdown or loss of a filling
- An injury to the pulp but not to the tooth, caused by an accident or trauma
The longer you delay your root canal procedure the more severe the pain and extensive the infection can become, this can cause irreversible bone and gum damage and there may be no alternative other than to extract a tooth that may have been able to be saved. The sooner root canal treatment is performed the easier and more successful the procedure. If you do sustain an injury to your tooth – you should have it examined sooner rather than later.
New dental techniques and the development of fine instruments, enables root canal treatment to be completed more efficiently and comfortably than ever before in as few as three appointments.
A local anaesthetic is administered that will numb the entire area so you are completely relaxed. A latex sheet called a dam is placed around the tooth receiving treatment to keep the area dry and prevent the spread of any infection.
If there is decay present, this is first removed. The infected pulp is then removed, the root canals are cleaned and smoothed. To prevent further infection, the empty root canal is now filled with a rubber called gutta percha.
Some teeth can discolour as a result of an accident or when decay infects the pulp. During your root canal treatment, an internal bleaching agent can be applied to restore your tooth’s natural colour and appearance. Application of this whitening treatment may require several appointments. Internal tooth whitening is usually done when most of the tooth’s natural structure is remaining.