When people think of emergency dentistry, a root canal is not often the first word that comes to mind. Chipping a tooth, maybe, or maybe some oral trauma happened due to a car wreck — but a root canal? That advanced procedure is something that is taken care of during a regular dentist appointment, right? It hardly constitutes an emergency.
However, this is not always the case. While root canals may not be the first thing a person thinks of when considering emergency dental care, in some cases it can be a required emergency treatment.
What is a root canal?
A root canal is a procedure by which one can save a tooth that has become badly infected. The dentist drills a hole in the tooth and removes the infected pulp and nerve before thoroughly cleaning and sealing it. This prevents infection from spreading throughout the mouth and abscesses from forming in the gums, tooth or jaw.
Normally, fillings are enough for external tooth infections or decay. However, when an infection has gotten inside the tooth, a simple filling does not suffice. A root canal is generally the only way to take care of the problem outside of pulling the tooth out entirely.
Why would someone need an emergency root canal?
Sometimes, symptoms arise due to complications of the oral infection that either cannot wait or are very difficult for the patient to bear. It can interfere with daily life to the point of distracting the sufferer at work, school or at home, preventing them from doing daily activities.
Specifically, the patient may experience intense pain that can encompass not just the tooth in question but radiates over a larger area. The patient may have difficulty eating, or the tooth may be hypersensitive to touch. In some cases, a small red bump may be seen near the affected area, which is the sign that an abscess may be forming.
One of these symptoms is bad enough. If a patient is dealing with a combination of these ailments, it can be quite problematic. In this case, an emergency procedure can be done.
When should someone try to get an emergency root canal?
When the signs of a badly infected tooth start to show, it is important to get it looked at right away. While some patients may wait because their case does not ‘feel’ like an emergency (as in, they are not in enough pain to believe it warrants a dental visit), putting off an important procedure is not the right way to go about taking care of one's oral health.
If you are feeling discomfort and there are external signs of severe infection (swelling gums, discoloration in the tooth, potential abscesses forming around the affected area), pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. Do not wait. The sooner an infected tooth is dealt with, the more problems can be avoided, both in terms of pain and in overall health.
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