Did you know that your teeth are composed of three layers: enamel, dentin, and pulp? Did you also know that decay can erode the enamel and dentin layers to reach the dental pulp? Are you aware that once this happens, the pulp becomes infected and can result in the tooth falling out? Pulp infections caused by bacteria must be treated promptly by a general dentist to prevent complications such as tooth loss, abscess, and the spread of the infection.
Can you guess what the treatment for a pulp infection is? If you guessed root canal, then you are correct. Root canals are restorative dental procedures used to remove decayed pulp tissue, disinfect the remaining chamber, and place a dental crown to protect the tooth. Although many people view root canals in a negative light, they are actually highly beneficial and are the only restorative treatment that can save an infected tooth.
While only a dentist can diagnose the need for a root canal, there are a few signs that could indicate you should make a dental appointment. Here are three common signs you may need a root canal:
Since the dental pulp contains blood vessels and nerves, the inflammation caused by infection results in tooth pain and possible prolonged sensitivity. Generally tooth pain caused by pulp infections comes on suddenly, can be felt deep in the jaw, continues to get worse, and is most noticeable with the pressure of chewing. Prolonged sensitivity is tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures that continues to persist even after the hot or cold stimuli has been removed. Both tooth pain and prolonged sensitivity can indicate the need for a root canal, however tooth pain alone can have a variety of different causes.
Teeth are slightly translucent, meaning that if the dental pulp suddenly changes color, it will likely be visually noticeable. Unfortunately, when the dental pulp is infected, the tissue will begin to decay and die. When this happens, it can cause the tooth to appear yellow, light brown, gray, or black in color. A single tooth that looks to be a different color than the rest is a key sign that you should call your dentist immediately for an appointment.
The inflammation caused by a pulp infection will not only affect the tooth, but it can be noticed in the periodontal tissues as well. Often times, this will cause the gums to be tender, as well as to appear red and swollen. They may also have pimples or produce discharge along the junction where the gums meet the tooth.
If you are experiencing tooth pain, tooth discoloration, and gum inflammation, you are exhibiting three symptoms of a pulp infection that may require a root canal. Even one of the three signs can indicate the possible need for a root canal. However, only your local general dentist can determine if a root canal is needed as opposed to some other dental treatment. For this reason, you should schedule an appointment if you are experiencing any or all of these signs.
Dr. Michael C. Shuck received his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the Medical College of Virginia, Cum Laude. He takes part in many volunteer outreach events, including Virginia’s Mission of Mercy project, Virginia Special Olympics, Give Kids a Smile, and the Jamaica Project. Dr. Shuck also is a regular volunteer at Williamsburg’s Olde Towne Medical Center. He actively participates with Virginia’s Donated Dental Service. Dr. Shuck has been a practicing dentist in the Williamsburg, Virginia area since 2007.