This refers to the intricate surgical procedure in which the dead or dying nerve (dental pulp) is removed from the pulp chamber and canals within the tooth roots. The canals are then disinfected and sealed to enable the tooth to be restored into proper function for continued use in the mouth. Root canal treatment itself is generally fairly painless and is managed with just a local anesthetic. Post-treatment soreness is usually controlled with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen for a day or two. Antibiotics may be used if the tooth infection had already spread into the bone, causing an abscess or cellulitis.
Teeth with advanced decay, recurring decay under deep fillings or internal cracks extending into the center of the tooth will often develop irreversible damage to the dental pulp. Eventually, without root canal treatment, the pulp will become infected and die (necrotic) and an abscess will develop in the jaw bone, eventually resulting in loss of the tooth. If the damage to the tooth is too extensive, then it may no longer be an option to save it using root canal treatment. In this case the tooth would need to be removed.
Signs and symptoms of teeth that may require root canal treatment would include the following:
• Constant aching or throbbing
• Throbbing that is worse while sleeping or wakes you up during the night
• Pain while biting or eating hot or cold foods, especially if the pain lingers for awhile
• More severe pain requiring medication to try to relieve it
• Swelling of the face or under the jaw