How does a root canal become infected?

In addition to being the name of a dreaded (although unnecessarily so) dental procedure, the root canal is a chamber in the tooth’s root that houses the nerves that end in the tooth’s center core, or pulp.

Those nerves can become infected if oral bacteria are able to travel to the tooth’s center, which contains the nerve-rich pulp. This can happen when a tooth is damaged, allowing bacteria beyond the enamel, or when it experiences advanced decay.

When the pulp is infected, the root canal must be cleaned out to remove the infection and sealed with an inert rubber-like substance called gutta percha. This procedure is root canal therapy, more commonly known as a “root canal.” Root canal therapy is probably the most common reason that patients visit endodontists. Patients often get a crown on the tooth as an additional protective measure following a root canal.

An endodontist is a specialist who focuses on treating problems with the innermost portion of the tooth.

Although root canals have a bad reputation for being very painful, the techniques and technology of modern dentistry have greatly improved patient comfort during this procedure. The instruments are more efficient, allowing the endodontist to proceed with less disruption for the patient. Patients may also opt for sedation if they have qualms about the process.

Root canal therapy is a preventive measure to stop the spread of infection and preserve a tooth that might otherwise need to be extracted.

Ideally, the endodontic therapy will be sufficient to eliminate the infection and the source of the problems. However, in rare cases, the root canal may not be sufficient, especially if portions of the tooth were left uncleaned or if there were minute cracks that could let bacteria pass through them. In these scenarios, a repeat root canal therapy may be needed.

It’s important to treat a root canal infection quickly, before it can spread. If you have an unrelenting toothache, it may indicate a problem with the root canal or pulp. Talk to our experienced team of endodontists in DFW to learn more about the treatments that are available.