Among the most severe pains known to man is the acute toothache. Teeth hurt due to inflammation in the dental nerve or pulp which is called a pulpitis. The initial signs of a pulpitis are:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Sensitivity to hot
- Sensitivity to percussion
While having one of the symptoms mentioned above does not necessarily mean the nerve is infected, having all three is generally a telltale sign of pulpal infection. When the nerve becomes infected, the patient has two choices:
- Extraction of the infected tooth
- Root Canal therapy
While extracting the tooth will relieve the symptoms, the missing tooth, if not replaced with more complex dental procedures, can cause long term problems for the remaining teeth.
Root canal therapy, with the tremendous advances that have taken place in the field over the last generation, is the simplest, best and in many instances the most economical way to preserve teeth that have pulpal infections.
Today, most root canals can be done relatively painlessly and often times in one visit.
The dentist or endodontist, will isolate the tooth and using specialized files and rotary instruments, remove the infected nerve, shape the canal where the nerve used to be and seal the canals with gutta percha, an inert material that seals the tooth and prevents further infection.
Once the root canal is completed, in the vast majority of cases, the pain will dissipate and the tooth can be preserved for many years to come. The tooth will require either a filling or in many cases a crown to restore the missing tooth structure and to maintain proper tooth function.