Infected Tooth, Broke Tooth, Dead Tooth...



Infected Tooth, Broke Tooth, Dead Tooth…


            There are two words that most every dental patient dreads…”root…canal.” In past articles, I’ve tried to defend the oft dreaded root canal by explaining one simple dental truth. Most root canals are performed to get patients out of pain, not to cause patients to have pain. Root canals often get a bad rap because of the pain in the tooth that occurs before the root canal even starts.


            There are few pains worse than a toothache. I can say this because I have never given birth to a child. I have had several ear infections that were close, but my blue ribbon still goes to tooth pain. It is not fun for anyone.


            Tooth pain is often caused by one or a combination of up to three different issues: bacterial invasion, trauma, and/or necrosis. In layman’s terms:  infected tooth, broke tooth, or dead tooth. The solution for most of these is root canal therapy.


            Root canals can save teeth when they have been extensively damaged. Infected teeth hurt and must be addressed when the bacteria that cause cavities enter the nerve chamber of a tooth. Sometimes, a tooth can be broken in a way that exposes the sensitive nerve tissue. Other times, a tooth may die from previous issues and then later abscess. In all of these cases, a root canal is frequently a viable option to save the natural tooth structure.


            A root canal removes the nerve tissue, blood vessels, bacteria, and debris from the nerve chambers (canals) of the tooth. After the tooth becomes completely numb (a pre-requisite to any comfortable dental procedure), your dentist will use a combination of rotating files and antibiotic solutions to clean out the insides of your tooth. After this cleaning and shaping of the nerve chamber (some teeth can have up to four or five different nerve canals), the tooth root is sealed up to prevent bacteria from getting back in.

            Once the tooth is put to sleep, the actual procedure is pain free.

            The final step of a root canal is to restore your tooth to its former glory. On front teeth this can sometimes be done with a tooth colored filling. Back teeth usually require a cap or crown to protect them from your heavier chewing forces. Either way, your tooth can often be pain free and looking as good as new in one or two dental visits.

            Until next week, keep smiling.

-Questions or comments can be sent to Drs. Parrish at