When a tooth requires endodontic therapy (also known as a root canal), this means that a cavity that started on the outside of the tooth became so large that it infiltrated the root of the tooth, which is where the nerve lies.
Bacteria from the cavity get into the nerve and cause it to die. Once the nerve dies (or becomes necrotic) the antigens from the root leak out into the bone, an abscess forms, and symptoms arise.
A root canal allows you to save a tooth that otherwise would need to be extracted. During a root canal procedure, the nerve is removed and a filling is placed in the root.
Tooth pain from an endodontic problem can be severe. Symptoms can include:
- extreme, lingering hot and cold sensitivity to the tooth
- pain on touching the gums around the tooth
- pain when eating
- pain can also be so severe that it wakes you up when you are asleep
Not every tooth is a good candidate for a root canal. If the tooth has a severe fracture in it, that tooth is not a good candidate for root canal.
If the decay has become so extensive that an adequate restoration cannot be made when the root canal is finished then the tooth should be extracted and other plans to restore the space should be considered (such as implants, bridges, partials, etc.)
After the procedure it is common to have some discomfort in the area for a few days, which can be controlled with pain medication.
It is important that the tooth still gets taken care of after the root canal. Oral hygiene is still very important (flossing, brushing, oral rinse) because a tooth can still get a cavity even after it has had a root canal.