When you don’t take care of your oral hygiene, you allow cavities to grow in your teeth. When you allow cavities to grow, it provides an opportunity for bacteria to make its way past your tooth’s natural enamel defenses and infect the nerve. A tooth with an infected nerve will demand your attention with a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
Root canal treatment is often necessary to clean out the infection. If untreated, a nerve infection can develop into some nasty complications. This includes dental abscess, which is a pocket of pus that forms around the infected tooth. An abscessed tooth is usually quite painful and might require the tooth be extracted. Also, the pus can drain internally and infect other parts of the body, in rare cases leading to hospitalization due to an infection in the heart or the brain.
As scared as you might be of getting a root canal, just know that the longer you put it off, the more you put yourself at risk of developing something much, much worse.
The treatment goes like this: an opening is cut in the crown of the tooth to access the pulp chamber, which is the hollow area in every tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves, and cells called odontoblasts that produce dentin. Once that hole is cut, the dentist can use tiny instruments (endodontic files and reamers) to reach deep down inside the tooth and dig out the infected material.
To make sure he gets every single bit of infected material, Dr. Safarian uses an apex locator. The apical foramen (apex) of a tooth, which is the opening at the bottom of the root where the nerve and blood vessels pass through, has a particular resistance to electrical current. The apex locator attaches electrodes to the endodontic file, and when the tip of the file connects with the apical foramen, the apex locator notices the difference in electrical resistance and alerts the dentist.
Knowing where the apex is allows Dr. Safarian to know how long the root cavity space is, which helps him to clean the space out more effectively. Once the root canal is cleaned and reshaped, the empty space is filled with gutta percha.
Don’t worry. Root canal treatment isn’t actually as painful as its reputation would have you believe. You won’t feel a thing during the procedure, as the tooth and surrounding tissues are numbed completely by local anesthetics.
There may be some slight swelling or mild discomfort for a few days after the procedure, but it’s nothing that an icepack or over-the-counter pain medications (aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, etc.) can’t take care of. Sometimes patients experience moderate post-treatment pain, and we will prescribe pain meds if this happens to you.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with an infected nerve, don’t wait around for the problem to get worse. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Safarian at (858) 755-8993 for the San Diego office or (619) 656-6785 for the Chula Vista office.