What to Know About Needing a Root Canal

dentist in Boulder county

As a dentist in Boulder county, our team at Louisville Dental Associates understands that no treatment causes our patients more dread than a root canal. While the reputation a root canal carries as one of the most painful and invasive treatments a dentist could perform may have been true in the past, today’s root canal therapy is far more advanced and less painful than ever before.

So we can help take a little of the fear out a root canal, here’s what you need to know about this formally fearful procedure.

What is a root canal?

Root canal therapy is a form of treatment designed to save and repair a tooth badly damaged by decay or infection.

Drs. Skinner and Chudleigh may decide that a root canal therapy is necessary when the pulp of a tooth becomes badly infected or damaged. The pulp is the delicate interior of your tooth, and contains the blood vessels and nerves that keep your teeth healthy. During a root canal, the pulp inside of a tooth is fully removed, and the interior is then cleaned, filled, and sealed.

Common perception of a root canal is that it’s one of the most painful experiences possible. In truth, most patients don’t report any more discomfort during the procedure than they do when having a filling placed. We guarantee the pain you experience due to a damaged or infected tooth is far more excruciating than what happens during a root canal. Even better, once the procedure is complete, that nagging tooth pain you’ve been dealing with will finally go away.

Why can’t you save the pulp?

Unfortunately, when pulp becomes damaged, it starts to break down, allowing harmful oral bacteria to quickly multiply within a tooth. The bacteria and other parts of the dying pulp cause an infection or an abscessed tooth to form. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of a tooth’s root. Abscesses are incredibly painful and can cause an infection to spread if not properly treated.

In addition to the formation of an abscess, a pulp infection can cause:

  • Swelling that may develop in the head, neck, or face.
  • Bone loss that may occur around the base of a tooth.
  • Drainage issues that results in infected material leaking from the tooth into the gums or cheek.

Each of these issues can be incredibly serious if not properly treated.

What signs indicate a root canal may be needed?

There are a variety of symptoms and signs that could indicate the need for a root canal, including:

  • Extreme tooth pain when chewing or when pressure is applied to a tooth.
  • Extended sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures (pain that lasts long after the source of the heat or cool has been removed).
  • Tooth discoloration, especially a darkening of a tooth.
  • Tenderness and swelling of the gums.
  • A recurring or persistent pimple on the gums.

While these are some of the most common symptoms, some patients will exhibit no symptoms at all.