Sometimes tooth pain occurs when the nerve inside the tooth has become infected or severely inflamed as a result of decay, fracture or other trauma to the tooth. This can cause the nerve (dental pulp) inside the tooth to die. People experiencing this may come in to see us because there is sensitivity in their teeth to hot and/or cold and/or tenderness to biting. Oftentimes, there is a swelling or lump in their gums and/or a severe throbbing pain that may radiate through their jaw, possibly even causing a headache.
Depending on their signs and symptoms and following a series of tests, it may be determined that the nerve inside a tooth is dead or dying. Unfortunately, the internal disease will not heal by itself, even with oral antibiotics. There are two options available:
- Removal of the tooth (extraction)
- Root canal therapy (endodontic treatment)
What Is Root Canal Therapy?
Root canal therapy involves taking the diseased nerve out of the tooth. At the first appointment, Dr Teo will remove as much infection and debris from inside the tooth as possible, and place an antibiotic and sedative (pain-relieving) medication inside it. Further visit(s) are then scheduled, during which the inside of the tooth will be further cleaned and shaped to ensure that the tooth is infection-free. The final stage involves filling the empty canal space(s) inside the tooth (where the nerve used to be) with a special root-filling material.
What Happens Next?
Once the tooth is settled, a crown dental cap may be recommended to protect the top part of the tooth. This is often a critical step, as a root-filled tooth is often weakened due to previously deep and extensive decay. It is also more brittle than before. A crown may therefore reduce the risk of the tooth and fillings from splitting and fracturing off.
It’s important to be aware that, while we have an excellent success rates with root canal therapy, it is a complex treatment and there is still a risk of the infection recurring.
Why Does Root Canal Therapy Get Such Bad Press?
There is a general belief (fueled by popular media) that having root canal therapy is very painful.
In fact we find that in most cases, our patients have come in to see us because they have been experiencing such terrible pain from their toothache. Many experience a welcome and rapid relief of pain from the local anaesthetic that is given at the beginning of the appointment, and find that their pain is significantly reduced even when the effects of the anaesthetic wear off.