Toothaches and Root Canals: The Facts You Need to Know

Toothaches and Root Canals: The Facts You Need to Know
  • 9 May 2023

Understanding Toothaches: Causes and Symptoms

Before we dive into the world of root canals, it is important to understand what toothaches are and what causes them. A toothache is a pain in or around a tooth that may be caused by various factors such as tooth decay, an infection, a damaged filling, or even a tooth fracture. A toothache can range from mild to severe, and it can be either constant or intermittent.
Some common symptoms of a toothache include sharp or throbbing pain, swelling around the tooth, fever, and even difficulty in swallowing. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's crucial to visit your dentist as soon as possible to get the appropriate treatment and prevent further complications.

Root Canal Treatment: What is it?

A root canal treatment, also known as endodontic therapy, is a dental procedure used to treat an infected or severely decayed tooth. The aim of this treatment is to remove the infected pulp (the soft tissue inside the tooth) and clean, disinfect, and seal the tooth to prevent future infections.
Root canal treatment is often necessary when the tooth's pulp becomes infected or inflamed due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures, or a crack or chip in the tooth. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the surrounding tissues, leading to an abscess or even tooth loss.

Signs You May Need a Root Canal

Not all toothaches require a root canal treatment, but there are some signs that may indicate you need one. These include:

  • Severe, persistent tooth pain
  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • Swollen or tender gums around the affected tooth
  • Discoloration of the tooth
  • Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to see your dentist as soon as possible for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Root Canal Procedure: Step by Step

Root canal treatment may sound intimidating, but it's a relatively straightforward procedure that can save your tooth and alleviate your pain. Here's a step-by-step overview of what to expect during a root canal procedure:

  1. Your dentist will administer local anesthesia to numb the area around the affected tooth.
  2. A dental dam (a rubber sheet) will be placed around the tooth to keep it isolated and clean during the procedure.
  3. Your dentist will create an opening in the crown of the tooth to access the pulp chamber.
  4. The infected pulp will be removed, and the root canals will be carefully cleaned and disinfected.
  5. Once the canals are clean, they will be filled and sealed with a biocompatible material called gutta-percha.
  6. A temporary filling will be placed to close the opening in the tooth. You will need to return for a follow-up appointment to have a permanent crown or filling placed.

Aftercare and Recovery

After your root canal treatment, you may experience some discomfort or mild pain for a few days, which can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. It's important to follow your dentist's aftercare instructions, which may include:

  • Avoiding hard or crunchy foods for a few days
  • Taking pain medications as recommended
  • Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water to help reduce swelling and discomfort
  • Practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and using an antiseptic mouthwash

It's important to schedule a follow-up appointment with your dentist to have a permanent crown or filling placed and to ensure that the tooth is healing properly.

Root Canal Success Rate and Longevity

Root canal treatment has a high success rate, with studies showing that around 90% of treated teeth last at least 8-10 years. The longevity of the treated tooth depends on several factors, such as the extent of the damage, the type of restoration used (crown or filling), and your overall oral hygiene habits.
To ensure the long-term success of your root canal treatment, it's essential to maintain good oral hygiene, visit your dentist regularly, and follow any recommendations provided by your dentist.

Root Canal vs. Tooth Extraction

In some cases, you may be faced with the decision of whether to undergo a root canal treatment or have the tooth extracted. Both options have their pros and cons, and the decision should be made based on your individual circumstances and the advice of your dentist.
Root canal treatment is typically recommended when the tooth can be saved and restored to function. The benefits of saving the tooth include maintaining your natural smile, preventing the need for a dental implant or bridge, and preserving your jawbone and surrounding teeth. However, root canal treatment can be more expensive and time-consuming than an extraction.
Tooth extraction may be recommended when the tooth is severely damaged and cannot be saved through root canal treatment. While tooth extraction is often less expensive and requires fewer appointments, it can lead to additional dental issues, such as shifting teeth, bone loss, and the need for replacement teeth (implants, bridges, or dentures).

Preventing Toothaches and Root Canal Treatment

Prevention is always better than cure, and there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of toothaches and the need for root canal treatment:

  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouthwash.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings.
  • Wear a mouthguard when participating in contact sports to protect your teeth from injury.
  • Seek prompt dental care if you experience any tooth pain or sensitivity, as early intervention can often prevent the need for more invasive treatments.

By following these preventive measures, you can help keep your teeth healthy and reduce your risk of toothaches and root canal treatment.