When it comes down to it, the field of dentistry has a bad reputation for being painful, difficult, and unpleasant, but root canals may be the most dreaded dental procedure of all. Stories of excruciating pain and months of recovery time, lead people to say things such as, “I’d rather have a root canal,” sarcastically when asked to complete an unpleasant task. At White Willow Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, we hope you don’t dread coming to visit us. We work hard to make our patients feel at ease during every visit, but we know that for many people, visiting the dentist is a dreaded task. While patients may experience anxiety when confronted with a trip to the dentist, the pain associated with root canal infection is sure to send them running to our door.

Root Canal Infection

Root canal infections and their treatment (commonly referred to simply as “root canals”), are actually inaccurately named. A root canal is simply the small space inside the root of each tooth that dental nerves run through. Root canal infection is the corruption of the interior pulp layer of teeth. It got its name because the majority of pulp infections begin in the roots of teeth where the layers of enamel and dentin are less dense. Decay in the root of the tooth almost always leads to an infection of the root canal, but any tooth decay left untreated may eventually reach the interior of the tooth.

Symptoms of Root Canal Infection

  • Extreme or sharp dental pain
  • Sensitivity to changes in temperature that do not abate quickly
  • Swelling of gums
  • Drainage or infection in the gums around one tooth
  • A white or red bump or sore on the gums
  • Darkening or discoloration of an individual tooth

Root Canal Treatment Process

The first step is to remove infected tissue from the tooth. The dentist drills a small access hole, and using increasingly larger dental files (thin tools that resemble Christmas trees), removes the infected tissue from the tooth. Once the dentist is sure all infected tissue is removed, the interior of the tooth is refilled with a similarly structured biocompatible material called gutta percha. If patients have infection in other teeth or their gums, a round of topical or oral antibiotics may be necessary before refilling the tooth and completing treatment. The tooth is sealed following refilling, and a dental crown is placed over the remaining structure to provide adequate protection and support for the damaged tooth.

When Should You Seek Treatment?

Patients with root canal infection, usually know right away. When decay and infection reaches the pulp layer of teeth, the nerve structure is directly affected. Patients describe this experience as being excruciatingly painful. One woman claimed her child’s birth was less painful than her root canal infection! While we hope you don’t experience that extreme level of discomfort, it’s essential that you contact us at the first signs of infection to help prevent this. At the end of the day, the best solution to root canal infections is to prevent them from ever happening. Regular visits every six months to White Willow Family & Cosmetic Dentistry help patients keep their healthiest smiles for a lifetime.