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Why do I need a root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment for a tooth is recommended by a dentist when a tooth is abscessed, decayed into the nerve, or broken into the nerve. A root canal removes the diseased or infected part of the tooth, and it removes the nerve from a severely broken tooth. This procedure allows the tooth to be saved. The tooth can then be either filled or crowned depending on the extent of the original decay or fracture. See your dentist if you think you need a root canal.

Some of the more common indications for root canal treatment are as follows: 
  1. to treat an infection at the tip of tooth
  2. to treat a tooth with irreversible pulpitis (inflammation of the nerve area that will not go away)
  3. to treat a tooth with a non-vital pulp even without an infection
  4. elective treatment when a tooth has extensive decay or breakdown that is close to the nerve
  5. elective treatment when a tooth has extensive fillings prior to making a crown
Often there may be evidence on radiographs (x-rays) of a chronic infection at the tip of the tooth or decay which is either into the pulp or very near it. Both of these conditions are indications for root canal treatment prior to an emergency. DON'T WAIT TILL IT HURTS.

Root canal treatment or endodontic therapy is often the indicated treatment when someone has a toothache. The symptoms are spontaneous pain, lasting sensitivity to cold which is then relieved by heat in the earlier stage of pulpal deterioration and lasting sensitivity to heat which is relieved by cold in later stages of pulpal degeneration. As the pulp ("nerve area") dies an abscess may form which creates pain on biting and touch, tenderness to palpating tissue near the involved tooth and possibly swelling. This is due to the infection at the tip of the tooth. 

Root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp (soft tissue inside your teeth containing blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue) becomes inflamed or diseased. If the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result, and your tooth may have to be removed. The procedure can save your tooth and your smile.

When your tooth has gotten to the point where you need a root canal, the inside of the tooth (the pulp) is infected, and will not get better. There are then three options: pull the tooth, perform a root canal to save it, or leave it alone to get further infected. Of course, option three is very painful, and can eventually even be fatal, so let's not go there.

Root canals, although fairly common, are typically a last resort to save a tooth.

Continue Learning about Root Canal Therapy

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.