Root Canals

Teeth have nerves in them that are responsible for the sensations they feel including discomfort when they are irritated. There are many irritants that can create pain or discomfort within a tooth. Some of these are:

  • Deep cavity
  • Cracked tooth broken/tooth
  • Bad bite/clenching grinding
  • Loose tooth
  • Recession
  • Recent filling
  • Trauma
  • Braces
  • Resorption of the root
  • A tooth that is no longer alive or has become infected

Nerves can undergo a certain amount of irritation and recover (reversible). During this recovery process it is normal to feel mild to moderate temperature sensitivity for a short period of time (a few seconds). However, sometimes the nerves do not recover from the irritant, and as a result a toothache develops.

This toothache is different from a reversible toothache in that the pain can persist for minutes or hours. It can be brought on spontaneously (can wake someone during sleep) or with irritation. Once a tooth has progressed to this stage a root canal treatment is necessary; otherwise, the only other option is to extract the tooth.

Following a root canal procedure it is not abnormal to feel discomfort to chewing or pressure on the tooth in question. This can last from a few days to a few weeks. Your dentist will give you a pain medication regimen to follow to minimize/prevent post-operative sensitivity. Typically, an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or aspirin is an excellent choice as long as your medical doctor approves its use for you.

Back teeth (premolars/molars) are much more prone to fracture after root canal treatment. Research clearly shows placing crowns on root canaled back teeth drastically improves the long-term prognosis of those teeth. After these teeth are crowned, you can rest assured knowing that root canal treatments have a greater than 90% success rate at 10 years following treatment.

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