Teeth are the hardest substance in the human body. While exceptionally hard and able to stand up to a significant amount of daily use, they are not indestructible. Tooth decay and physical damage can compromise the structure, and health, of your teeth. These issues can lead to serious, painful infections that need to be treated right away.
Tooth infections are different from other infections in the body in that, once present, if the tooth is not removed or root canal therapy performed, the infection will return. This infection can be dangerous and lead to generally feeling bad overall to even death by sepsis! Tooth infections are not to be ignored.
Getting an Infection in Your Tooth
When you look at your teeth, you only see the outermost, or enamel, layer. This strong, mineralized layer protects more layers inside. Under the enamel, there is the dentin, which houses a network of hollow tunnels that lead to the roots of the tooth. There is also the pulp chamber, which houses the soft tissue called the pulp.
The pulp contains blood vessels and nerves. While the enamel is strong, it can still experience decay or physical damage. If the damage extends past the enamel, oral bacteria are provided with a direct path to the inner layers of your teeth. The bacteria then make themselves at home in the tunnels of the dentin and begin attacking the pulp. The pulp then becomes irritated, inflamed, and painful.
When an infection develops, the only way to treat the tooth is with root canal therapy. A root canal is a treatment that involves removing the damaged pulp and disinfecting the interior of the tooth before filling and sealing the canal. This root canal therapy may be performed at LakeView Dental Arts or, if it is a complicated case, referred out to a root canal specialist. Later, it will have to be fitted with a protective dental crown to protect the natural tooth structure, which becomes brittle after losing the blood supply.
Symptoms of an Infection Inside Your Tooth
There are several symptoms that can point toward an infection inside your tooth:
- A toothache. This is one of the biggest indicators of an infection.
- Pain or sensitivity that lingers. This is often an indication of a dying nerve.
- Facial swelling near the infected tooth.
- A chronic bad taste in your mouth.
- Losing bone mass in your jaw.
- A dental abscess. An abscess forms in an attempt to contain bacteria that spill out of the root of the tooth. The abscess grows larger the longer the infection goes without treatment. It can even rupture, which can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This can be very dangerous and lead to sickness or, in extreme cases, death.
Diagnosing an Infection
Diagnosing an infection requires an oral examination. We first look at your teeth and gums, checking for signs of damage, decay, and swollen gums. Along with a visual inspection, we also take x-rays of your mouth. These images will allow us to see in between teeth and below the gums, where we can spot damage to the roots of the teeth, damage to the jawbone, bone loss, and abscesses. Once we diagnose the infection, your x-rays will then enable us to formulate an effective, customized treatment plan.
Your Root Canal Treatment
Once numbed, after the anesthetic has taken effect, we begin the procedure by drilling a small hole into the top of the infected tooth. We then use small tools to remove the infected pulp and shape the canals. The interior of the tooth is cleaned and disinfected. We then fill the empty space with a special material known as gutta-percha. This material seals the canals, and the interior of the tooth, aiding in the prevention of new bacterial invasion. Finally, the tooth is provided with a crown, which helps to restore strength to the tooth and further prevent new infections.
Schedule Your Appointment
A root canal can restore the health of an infected tooth and also prevent the need for an extraction. For more information, call LakeView Dental Arts today at 865) 248-2199.