Root canal treatment, also called endodontic therapy, is a gentle procedure used to remove the dental pulp from within a tooth. It becomes necessary when injury or decay cause damage to the nerve, or allow the pulp to become infected.
During treatment, the chambers inside of the tooth are opened and cleaned. The damaged pulp will not recover, so it needs to be removed. Once this is done, the canal is sterilized and filled with a strong, rubbery material. It is sealed to prevent reinfection. In most instances, the treated tooth will be fitted with a porcelain crown to protect it and avoid the risk of fracturing.
One of the most common, and easily preventable, causes of infection is a deep cavity. Decay begins in the enamel, and continues to erode the slightly softer dentin layer. If not treated, it can chew through the dentin, and reach the pulp chamber and root canal inside of a tooth. This causes pain and sensitivity, because it exposed the nerve. It also allows bacteria to enter these chambers, leading to infection.
To avoid this problem:
- Brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet, and avoid snacking between meals.
- Avoid acidic or sugary foods and beverages.
- If a cavity develops, see your dentist ASAP, before it reaches the pulp.
The other common cause of toothaches and infected teeth is cracks or fractures, which you may be unaware of. This can happen due to habits such as grinding or clenching your teeth, or chewing hard candies, popcorn kernels, or ice. It can also result from an oral injury. When you bite down, the pressure opens the crack, causing pain. This also allows food particles and bacteria inside the tooth, possibly causing infection.
To reduce your risk of cracking a tooth:
- Avoid chewing hard foods.
- Do not hold objects between your teeth.
- Use a tool (such as scissors or a bottle opener) to open containers and cut tape or clothing tags – never use your teeth!
- When participating in sports activities, wear a custom-made mouth guard.
- Wear a night guard while sleeping if you have bruxism.