Advanced Cosmetic & Family Dentistry

Persistent Oral Pain May Indicate an Infected Tooth Canal

By Dr. Brett Silverman | Jan 11, 2024 | Root Canal
Persistent Oral Pain May Indicate an Infected Tooth Canal

If you have an internally infected tooth, you may feel persistent, throbbing pain or sharp pain when chewing. Pain is the body’s way of letting your brain know that something is wrong. While a toothache can indicate various dental issues, a tooth canal filled with bacteria will require root canal therapy (RCT) or extraction and replacement of the tooth.

In today’s blog, you’ll learn about:

  • How a tooth becomes internally infected
  • Symptoms of an infected tooth canal
  • Treatment options
  • Result of non-treatment
  • Root canal therapy
  • Tooth replacement options
  • How to schedule an appointment

If you’ve been informed that you need root canal therapy and you’d like a second opinion on the diagnosis, Advanced Cosmetic & Family Dentistry in Alpharetta, GA at 678-389-9000 today. Drs. Silverman and Morton offer second opinions, as well as gentle, contemporary root canal therapy to save internally infected teeth from needing extraction.

How a Tooth Canal Becomes Infected

Your teeth are coated with enamel, the strongest substance in your body. Tooth enamel is harder than bone. However, our teeth are susceptible to damage. When a chip, crack, or cavity is not immediately treated, bacteria will invade the tooth. It’s just a matter of time, because our teeth don’t heal naturally like skin and bones do. Infections only worsen.

Our mouths are filled with bacteria, some good and some bad. When bad bacteria can access a tooth through damaged enamel, they invade the core of the tooth. Nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues within the core will first become infected, then die. Once the tooth dies, RCT isn’t effective, so if you notice symptoms that could indicate internal tooth infection, schedule a dental appointment now! Call 678-389-9000.

Symptoms of an Infected Tooth Canal

This list of symptoms is not exhaustive, but covers the most common symptoms you may notice if your tooth canal becomes infected:

  • Throbbing toothache
  • Constant toothache
  • Pain when chewing foods
  • Pain upon any pressure
  • Sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Discoloration of tooth
  • Gum swelling, redness, and/or bleeding
  • Chip, crack, or cavity
  • Bad breath
  • Foul taste
  • The tooth moves when pressed
  • Abscess on root tip
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Treatment Options

Once a tooth’s core is riddled with bacteria, you have two options: RCT or extraction. When infection is found in earlier stages, RCT may save the tooth. However, in some cases, the infection is too advanced and extraction is the only option. If you have a tooth extracted, it should be replaced to restore proper oral function and to prevent other teeth from drifting into the space. 

Result of Non-Treatment

When you notice symptoms of tooth canal infection, you have only a few weeks before the infection destroys the nerve and blood vessels within the tooth. This means you have a brief window for salvaging the tooth. Waiting too long will result in:

  • Acute, constant toothache
  • Bone loss
  • Abscess
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth death
  • Spread of infection to the bloodstream
  • Spread of infection to neighboring teeth
  • Need for tooth extraction

Root Canal (Tooth Canal) Therapy

By assessing x-rays, Drs. Silverman and Morton can see whether a tooth is internally infected. EPT (electronic pulp testing) is another option for diagnosing internal infection. EPT involves sending a low-voltage current through the tooth to determine whether the tooth is alive or dead. These tests, in combination with symptoms, allow the dentist to diagnose the need for root canal therapy.

When our patients need RCT, we go to great lengths to make the procedure as comfortable as possible. Patients can choose from Kovanaze(™) Nasal Spray, a needle-free dental anesthesia, or nitrous oxide, oral sedation, or IV sedation. IV sedation is also called conscious sedation or twilight sedation. 

To perform RCT, an entry is made into the tooth so that the dentist can access the pulp. Next, the infected pulp is removed and the canals are sanitized. At this point, gutta-percha (a plastic-like substance) is placed into the tooth’s core and canals to reinforce the tooth from within. Finally, the dentist will place a filling or crown to seal the tooth.

In total, RCT takes one or two hours and in some cases, treatment is phased over two visits. 

Tooth Replacement Options

A tooth infection that’s too advanced for RCT usually indicates that dental extraction is necessary. When a tooth is extracted or lost, it should be replaced. Not replacing a missing tooth can cause serious problems, including but not limited to:

  • Malocclusion
  • Gum disease (bacteria enter through the missing tooth’s socket)
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Cosmetic concerns
  • Jawbone deterioration
  • Shifting (drifting) teeth
  • TMJ disorder
  • Bruxism (clenching and grinding teeth)
  • Limited chewing ability/dietary limitations

At Advanced Cosmetic & Family dentistry, you can choose from a dental implant, implant-retained bridge, or traditional fixed bridge to replace one missing tooth or a few in a row. We also offer partial and full dentures, both traditional and implant-retained, to replace multiple or all lost teeth.

Gentle RCT in Alpharetta, GA

In addition to gentle root canal therapy, our doctors offer emergency and scheduled dental extractions. As noted, we strive to make procedures as comfortable as possible by offering needle-free anesthesia, as well as various sedation options. Our office is open five days a week, with appointments as early as 7:00 am, and we’re open until 6:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Best of all, we see patients of all ages and are accepting new patients, so call us today at 678-735-5946 to reserve your appointment or second-opinion consultation today.