Yes, a root canal treatment can save your tooth, however, if the affected tooth cannot be saved, it may have to be pulled out. Keep reading to understand the basics of tooth abscess and available treatment options.
What is a Tooth Abscess?
A tooth abscess is a pocket or collection of pus caused by a bacterial infection that forms in your teeth and travels to surrounding tissue. The abscess forms in different parts of the tooth for varying reasons. A periapical abscess will occur at the tip of your toot and a periodontal abscess will occur in the gums next to the root of the tooth. A periapical abscess commonly occurs due to an injury, an untreated cavity or previous dental work.
The primary symptom of a tooth abscess is severe, throbbing toothache. The pain is often sudden but it gradually worsens in a few hours or days, making the teeth tender and sensitive.
The goal of treatment is to clear up the infection, which is possible by draining the abscess. A dentist may be able to save your tooth with a root canal treatment, however, in certain circumstances a tooth may have to be removed.
Abscesses should be considered an urgent problem and you should look for an appointment with an emergency dentist at the earliest possible time. Not treating a tooth abscess can result in serious, potentially life-threatening problems.
Tooth Abscess Treatment
Unlike in the case of some types of infections, an abscessed tooth will not improve on its own and must be treated as soon as possible by a dentist.
As mentioned earlier, there are two ways of treating an abscessed tooth: a root canal treatment, which will save the tooth, or having the tooth removed completely. Although a root canal treatment can save your tooth, it may not always be the best approach. Therefore, talk to your dentist about whether a root canal is suitable for you.
Saving abscessed tooth with root canal treatment
Most abscessed teeth can be saved with a root canal treatment. After a successful treatment, your tooth may be more brittle than normal in the long term, thus, it may require a crown for protection.
Root canals are generally performed by a dentist within 1-2 appointments, or more. In conditions that are more complex however, the dentist may refer you to an endodontist.
Before the treatment, the dentist may carry out a set of X-rays to check the affected tooth and form a clearer picture of the root canal and the extent of the damage, if any. The dentist will give you a local anaesthetic but if the tooth is dead and no longer sensitive, you will not require numbing.
Removing the pulp
Next, the dentist will open your tooth from the top flat part of your tooth (crown) to examine the soft tissue at the centre of your tooth, called the pulp. The dentist will remove any infected pulp in this area and drain the abscess.
Cleaning and filling
The root canal is often very narrow. Therefore, after removing the pulp, the dentist will clean and widen the root canal to allow easy filling. This may take several hours to complete and may require multiple visits.
The front incisors and canines have single roots with one root canal. The chewing teeth or the premolars and molars at the back have two to three roots, with one or two root canals each. The length of the treatment depends on the number of roots a tooth has. If treatment requires several sessions, the dentist will apply a medicine in the canal that has been cleaned to kill remaining bacterial between office visits. The dentist will also temporarily fill the teeth to seal them.
In case of an infection, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics to manage it.
Fixing the tooth
During your next visit, the dentist will remove the medication and temporary filling and place a root canal filling within the tooth. This will help seal the tooth and prevent infection from recurring.
Since root-filled teeth are brittle and much more susceptible to breakage, your dentist may recommend placing a crown to protect it. First, the tooth will be trimmed down to place a crown over it. A crown will completely cover your real tooth and cemented over to keep it securely in place.