Beneath the hard enamel exterior of your tooth, there is a canal that contains what we call “pulp” – the soft interior of the tooth. Pulp is made up of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Because the pulp does most of its work during tooth development, its job is pretty much done by the time you are an adult. That’s why, fortunately, adult teeth can survive just fine without pulp. They do this by drawing nutrients from surrounding tissues. And that’s why, when tooth pulp becomes inflamed or infected, often the choice of treatment includes removing the remaining pulp and along with it, the infection.
Reasons for infection and inflammation include:
- Deep Decay– When many people think of cavities, they think of them as only affecting the surface of a tooth or tooth root. But what can happen if the decay is not detected and removed and the resulting damage repaired, is that the decay will continue to spread, reaching the interior of the tooth. When it does, the infection begins to involve the nerve and surrounding tissues, causing inflammation, further infection, and pain.
- Tooth Fractures– Many of us have fine vertical cracks on the surface of our teeth. They’re called craze lines. They are very superficial and are not serious – they don’t affect the health or function of teeth and require no treatment.But when the cracks are fractures – actual breaks in the hard enamel that protects the inner tooth pulp – that’s where root canal therapy comes in as the sensitive nerve is exposed to bacteria in the mouth, food, and varying extreme temperatures (when you drink hot coffee or eat cold ice cream, for example). The result is pain. When a tooth fracture originates in the tooth root, it may not be noticeable to you until infection in the bone or gums sets in.
- Trauma/Injury–If a tooth sustains trauma (for example, impact during sports or severe decay), the tooth nerve may die. When this happens, the pulp inside the tooth needs to be removed and replaced with a filler to save it and prevent tooth loss.
When these things happen, you may experience several symptoms and may not be able to tell what tooth is involved:
- severe pain when chewing – you may find yourself chewing on only one side of your mouth, or worse yet, modifying your diet to soft foods only
- pain that becomes worse when you bite – you may find yourself avoiding food as much as possible
- sensitivity to cold and hot foods and drinks – again, you may modify your diet to the exclusion of nutrients and development of dehydration
- sore gums which may be a constant irritant and bring continual discomfort
- discolored gums
- small pimple-like bumps on your gums due to infection.
At Tracey Tabor Williams DMD, when we consider endodontic therapy for you, we have two main goals: (1) to get you out of pain quickly and permanently, and (2) to save your tooth.
Why we want to relieve your pain immediately is easily understood! But why are we so focused on saving your tooth? It’s because when you’re missing a tooth, the neighboring teeth must work harder to help you chew and bite, and the extra stress may cause them to fracture. Remaining teeth will also drift into the gap left behind by the missing tooth, negatively affecting the way your teeth and jaws fit together, which can cause jaw and face pain, difficulty eating and speaking, and more!
We know that for some people, endodontics or root canal therapy has a bad reputation, but we can guarantee that’s a hangover from days long gone. At Tracey Tabor Williams DMD, we ensure your comfort. Before your treatment, we’ll always discuss sedation options with you and help you to choose the one that works best for you.
When endodontic treatment is complete, you’ll be out of pain and your beautiful smile will return. Homecare doesn’t change – brush twice a day and floss once a day like you already do.
If you have questions about endodontic care, be sure to call us, your dentist in Indianapolis, at (317) 794-2392. Because at Tracey Tabor Williams DMD, we want to help you enjoy every day with a pain-free, healthy, beautiful smile! Call now!