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What Do Root Canals Fix?

Root canals treat tooth infections and can help save a tooth
Read Time: 3 minutes
Oct 29, 2021

It’s a common misconception that root canals are very painful, but in reality they’re no more painful than getting a filling replaced. Root canals are a vital part of oral health because they can help to save teeth that might otherwise have to be removed. Patients who get root canals may be able to keep their own natural teeth for far longer.

What Does a Root Canal Treat?

A root canal is a treatment for a badly infected or decayed tooth. Teeth contain a nerve, which enables the sensation of hot and cold, and dental pulp, which makes up the center part of a tooth and contains:

  • Blood vessels
  • Cells
  • Connective tissues

If the nerve or dental pulp of a tooth becomes infected or inflamed and, if left untreated, can result in an infection of the tissue around the tooth. From this, an abscess in the gums can form. Eventually, the tooth could need to be removed if it’s not treated.

What Can Cause a Tooth Infection?

An infection of the tooth’s nerve or dental pulp can be caused by the following:

  • Tooth decay
  • Repeated dental procedures on the same tooth
  • Large fillings
  • Chip in the tooth
  • Crack in the tooth
  • Trauma to the face

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay, also known as a cavity, occurs when damage to a tooth results in a hole opening in the surface of the tooth. Usually, a cavity occurs because of a combination of different factors, rather than just one. The causes of a cavity can include:

  • Not cleaning your teeth well
  • Bacteria in the mouth
  • Snacking frequently
  • Eating sugary foods
  • Drinking sugary beverages

Ultimately, cavities are caused by bacteria that grows in the mouth. Eating sugary foods frequently and not brushing properly can lead to an increase in the amount of bacteria, which in turn can lead to cavities.

What Symptoms Indicate a Root Canal Is Necessary?

Patient at dental consult

You may need a root canal if you have:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Pain when chewing
  • Pain when biting
  • Chipped teeth
  • Cracked teeth
  • Swollen gums
  • Painful gums
  • Pimples on the gums
  • Darkened gums
  • Deep tooth decay

If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your dentist right away. Timely intervention can save the affected tooth from needing to be removed.

What Does a Root Canal Do?

A root canal involves the removal of the infected nerve and dental pulp within the tooth. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned out and sealed. The nerve isn’t vital to the tooth’s functioning, as it is only there for sensory purposes. Once it’s gone, you won’t feel heat or cold on that tooth anymore, but the overall function of the tooth won’t change.

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