Root canal treatments are recommended whenever the pulp tissue inside a tooth is infected or inflamed. Although a tooth can also be extracted in these circumstances, a root canal allows us to save your natural tooth, which is the best possible outcome for your oral health. During a root canal procedure, the pulp is removed, the chamber and root canals are cleaned, then they are filled to prevent future infection. If you’re wondering when you need a root canal, here are some situations in which they may be needed.
Deep Tooth Decay
When you visit the dentist regularly, we can catch tooth decay in its earliest stages and treat it with a dental filling. If decay is more extensive, it may require a dental crown, and if a cavity is deep enough to reach the pulp of your tooth, a root canal is needed.
This type of deep tooth decay causes the pulp of your tooth to become infected or inflamed, causing sharp pain when you chew or bite into food and painful sensitivity to cold and hot sensations. You may also notice a small pimple-like bump on the gum tissue near the affected tooth or observe that your gums are dark and swollen. These are symptoms of an infection, which means emergency dental care is needed to save the tooth and prevent the infection from spreading.
Many people have dental crowns to support a dental bridge or to restore strength and function to a tooth that has sustained damage or deep decay. If a crown becomes damaged or loosens, bacteria can seep in and cause decay in the tooth structure underneath. When this decay reaches the pulp of the tooth, we treat it with a root canal.
In order to perform a root canal on a tooth with a crown, your crown is removed, then the tooth under it is opened so we can access the pulp. After the root canal treatment is completed, you’ll need to have a new crown made to seal and protect your tooth.
Repeated Dental Procedures
Sometimes when one tooth has had repeated dental procedures, the pulp can become inflamed and painful. At this point, you must choose whether you want to have the tooth extracted or if you’d like to save it with a root canal treatment.
Dental trauma is another common reason for needing a root canal. While most people think of dental trauma as being caused by a dramatic injury—knocking a tooth out in a car accident or falling and chipping a tooth—it can sometimes take weeks to know that something is wrong. You might bite into something hard and not realize that you’ve cracked your tooth until the pulp becomes inflamed or infected and starts causing pain.
Although dental trauma can take many forms, if your injury reaches the pulp of your tooth, an extraction or root canal is required. If a fracture extends below the gum line, you’ll need to have your tooth removed; otherwise, the preferred treatment option is a root canal, as it allows us to save your tooth. An extraction may seem like an easier option, but only in the short-term—you’ll eventually need to replace your tooth, which is time-consuming and costly. Retaining your natural tooth means you won’t have to get a dental implant or bridge and you won’t have to worry about bone loss in the jaw.