Root Canals

Why do teeth need root canal treatment?

The nerve and blood vessels in teeth (known as dental pulp) are there to help the tooth grow to maturity. They protect against bacteria within the body. Bacteria play a defensive role in the mouth, but can become destructive when they attack the body through the dental pulp or through gum disease. Research found the correlation between gum disease and coronary heart disease several years ago.
Bacteria cause decay in teeth. When decay is deep, it can allow bacteria to invade the dental pulp. Decay is removed to protect the pulp. Patients usually just think about restoring the function and appearance of the tooth. However, repeated bacterial attacks (recurrent decay) can weaken the pulp to such an extent that the nerve can no longer recover, and so the pulp dies.

How do I know if something is wrong?

You don’t always know. Different nerve systems in teeth respond in different ways. The nerve may die quietly and never cause any symptoms. A routine x-ray may alert the dentist to a problem. Or, the dying nerve may cause discomfort and require immediate attention. When a nerve becomes irreversibly damaged, then either the pulp or the tooth has to be removed.

Will my tooth feel different?

The treated tooth is often referred to as being “dead” because it has lost its internal nerve and blood vessels. However nerves and blood supply to the outside surface of the tooth still exist, so when root canal treatment is successful the tooth should feel normal.

Do I need to see a specialist?

Whether you see a root canal specialist (endodontist) or we treat your tooth depends on many factors. The molar teeth have a more complicated nerve system than the front teeth, are harder to access and may require more specialized equipment.

Is there a treatment alternative?

If you choose not to have root canal treatment, the only alternative is to remove the sick tooth. However this can require a dental implant or bridge to fill the empty space and prevent the shifting of surrounding teeth. These solutions will ultimately cost more than the root canal therapy, and they will never equal the quality of keeping your natural teeth.

Whether or not you should replace missing teeth depends on function and aesthetic reasons. People today are aware of their mouth and smile, so someone displaying black gaps between their front teeth may feel self-conscious about speaking or smiling. Back teeth may not be immediately noticed in a smile, but they are very important in terms of chewing function. Every tooth stabilizes the teeth adjacent and those immediately above or below. When teeth shift, it can stimulate gum disease, food packing (leading to further decay) and bite problems.