Root canal treatment (also referred to as endodontic therapy) is necessary when there is nerve damage to a tooth. Regular cleanings and checkups can prevent and detect these problems early. Once this occurs, the nerve space of the tooth becomes infected and can begin to eat away at the surrounding bone, causing an abscess. Symptoms to look for may include any of the following:
- sensitivity to hot/cold or sweets
- throbbing or spontaneous tooth pain
- swelling of the cheek or gums
- pain to biting or pressure
- a bad taste in the mouth
Sometimes, no symptoms are apparent, and the patient is unaware until the problem is detected on an X-ray. If an infection is detected on an X-ray, a root canal may then be performed to clean out the infected tooth nerve and disinfect the canals of the tooth, to prevent pain, swelling, and other issues that may arise.
The only other alternative treatment to root canals is extraction of the tooth. Once the infection is resolved, the canal(s) are filled in to prevent any further infection. Root canals have about a 95% success rate. Usually a core build-up and crown are recommended for restoring a tooth that has had root canal therapy.