Most bacterial infections are easy to treat. Either your body heals itself, or antibiotic therapy effectively kills the infection. However, one part of your body cannot heal itself when infection is present: your teeth. Once bacteria have infiltrated the soft center of the tooth, it effectively dies and cannot regenerate healthy tissues. The good news is that there are ways to save a tooth that is no longer technically alive, allowing you to still enjoy normal tooth function. Endodontic therapy from a general dentist or a specialist can help you hold onto your natural teeth for life.
What causes an infected tooth?
A tooth is comprised of three layers. The enamel is the hard protective coating on the outside of the tooth. The second layer is the dentin, which contains tiny channels called tubules that connect to nerves inside the tooth. The third tooth layer lies in the center of the tooth and is called the pulp. Filled with nerves, blood vessels and other living tissues, the pulp provides nourishment to the tooth while it is developing. When decay, a crack or other tooth damage affects only the enamel or dentin, simple treatments such as fillings and crowns can restore the tooth. When the damage extends deeper into the pulp, however, the living tissues inside the tooth are exposed to bacteria and food debris, which will cause an infection.
How do I know my tooth is infected?
An infection inside the tooth often announces itself with a severe toothache, especially when chewing or applying pressure to the tooth. You may also feel sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures in foods and drinks, even long after you’ve removed the offending substance. Your teeth may also become darkened or discolored. If the infection spreads from the center of the tooth to the gums or underlying jawbone, you will develop an abscess, which is a painful collection of pus that must be drained by a dentist. If your diseased tooth is left untreated, you could lose your tooth, experience loss of jawbone tissue and develop a serious infection throughout your body. You should seek professional help from your dentist at the first sign of an infected tooth.
What treatments are available for an infected tooth?
Because the infection damages the blood vessels in the pulp, blood supply to the tooth is restricted. That is why the tooth cannot heal itself or respond to oral antibiotics. The only way save the tooth from extraction is for your dentist to manually remove the infected tissues inside the pulp chamber. This procedure is called a root canal treatment, the mere mention of which makes most patients feel fearful. However, with the use of local anesthesia and modern endodontic tools for precise removal of the infection, your root canal treatment should be as comfortable as a simple filling placement. Many dentists offer nitrous oxide or other sedation methods for patients who feel anxious about the procedure. During your root canal treatment, your dentist will remove all of the pulp tissues and infection within the tooth and then fill the space with a biocompatible material to seal it and prevent secondary infection. You may also receive a crown on that tooth, which offers further protection and helps strengthen the tooth.
Can my tooth function without pulp?
The purpose of the pulp is to nourish the tooth during its development. After the tooth has fully erupted in childhood, the only parts of the pulp that serve a function are the nerves, which signal pain. However, after a root canal treatment, your teeth can still function optimally without this sensory function.
If your tooth is having problems or bothering you then you should look into getting a dentist as soon as possible. From dentists in Savannah, Georgia all the way to New York City, if you need a dentist we have the top ones in your area!