Signs and Treating Root Canals


Root canal has arguably the worst reputation out of all other dental procedures. Fortunately, modern root canal treatment has come a long way from the original techniques used and today, thanks to new equipment, better anesthetic, and more skilled and experienced dentists, a root canal is no riskier or unpleasant than any other dental treatment. It also remains extremely important for the preservation of teeth that might otherwise fall out or require extraction due to a root canal infection. Here’s what you need to know about modern root canal treatment, signs that you need this procedure, and what you can expect to happen.   


What is Root Canal and Why is it Needed?


Root canal therapy is a last-resort treatment that targets the removal of infected tissue from deep within the teeth – in channels known as root canals. These root canals extend from the jaw throughout the inside of the teeth, delivering nutrients and red blood cells to keep the teeth healthy. Smaller teeth tend to just have one root canal, whereas larger teeth can have several. When a patient develops an infection in their root canal, blood and nutrients can no longer be delivered to the tooth, and this can cause it to die unless treatment is sought. Antibiotics aren’t effective at treating root canal infections, the only solution is root canal therapy. 


What are the Symptoms of a Root Canal Infection?


The early symptoms of a root canal infection are usually mild and can be easily overlooked or ignored. These include:

  • Discomfort or more significant pain when you bite or chew food.

  • Sensitivity when you eat or drink anything that is very sweet, hot, or cold. You may also experience sensitivity when you switch between hot and cold substances. 


These symptoms aren’t limited to just root canal infections – they can also be signs of other dental problems. Therefore, it’s important not to assume what the problem is, but to schedule an appointment with your dentist for a dental evaluation. 


If you don’t seek help for a potential root canal infection fairly promptly, the infection may spread. After a brief reprieve from your initial symptoms, you could go on to experience a range of other signs that your root canal infection is worsening. These include:

  • A return of your dental pain.

  • Swelling of the gums around the infected tooth.

  • Swelling of your face and jaw on the same side as your infected tooth.

  • The tooth starts to darken in color. 

  • You experience pus or discharge oozing from the tooth.


At this stage, the longevity of your tooth is under serious threat and an immediate root canal is the only way to save it.


How is a Root Canal Infection Treated?


Root canal treatment normally requires several visits to your dentist. You’ll be given a local anesthetic at each appointment, and you may be able to be sedated if you are particularly worried or nervous – ask your dentist for specific information. 


At the first appointment, your dentist will expose the root canals by drilling into the top of the tooth. Once they are accessible, they will use special tools to clean them, removing all signs of infected tissue and bacteria. After they are satisfied that all of the visible signs of the infection have been removed, the root canals will be filled using a temporary filling solution, and a filling or crown placed over the top to seal the tooth, preventing any further bacteria from entering. 


Around a week later you’ll be asked to attend a second appointment that will be used to check the root canals for any sign that the infection has recurred. Any further infection will necessitate a repeat of the first step of the procedure. However, if your dentist is satisfied that there is no reinfection, the root canals will be filled with a permanent filling solution. As root-filled teeth are more at risk of breaking, your dentist will probably place a crown on the tooth to protect it. This crown will be made to the color, size, and shape of your natural teeth so that it is difficult to tell apart from them. 



Concerned that you might have a root canal infection and want further advice? Don’t hesitate to speak to our experienced dental team in Los Altos, CA today.