Your dental health is important, but you likely don’t want to have a root canal. If you are concerned about root canals in your future, take some time to learn what causes root canals and what you can do to prevent them.
A Refresher on What Root Canals Are
Before getting into the causes of a root canal, take a few seconds to refresh your memory on what they are.
In a root canal, your dentist removes the pulp and nerves of the affected tooth. They then clean the inside of the tooth and seal it up. You should not be concerned about your dentist removing the tooth’s nerve. It is only there to let you feel hot and cold, so there is no significant difference in removing it.
People tend to assume that root canals are painful, but that is not the case. You should typically expect a similar level of discomfort as you would experience with a filling, which is not much at all. You should never put off a root canal because of fears of pain.
But by understanding the causes of a root canal, you can learn to take steps to prevent ever needing one.
Causes of Root Canals at a Glance
Dr. Sharma or one of our endodontists will suggest a root canal if your tooth’s pulp is infected or inflamed. Some of the potential causes of this inflammation and, therefore, of root canals include:
- Faulty crowns
- Chips or cracks
- Deep decay
- Repeated dental procedures
- Injury to your tooth
Benefits of a Root Canal
After a root canal, your tooth should last the rest of your life, provided you treat it properly. During that time, you will get to eat and drink your favorite foods and keep your natural smile. You will also have to make fewer trips to the dentist for expensive, uncomfortable, or time-consuming dental work.
Specific Actions and Condition That Can Cause Root Canals
We already took a quick look at the general causes of root canals, but each of those, such as deep decay, comes down to other factors. Many of the root canal causes have to do with failure to follow your dentist’s recommended oral hygiene routine, but some causes are outside of your control.
Not Brushing and Flossing Regularly
One of the biggest issues that can lead to root canals is if you fail to brush and floss your teeth regularly. Remember that brushing and flossing help remove bacteria that can turn into plaque. If that plaque extends too much, it can turn into deep decay, requiring a root canal.
Not Visiting the Dentist
There are a few reasons that not visiting the dentist can result in root canals.
To start, your dental checkup will always involve a dental cleaning. Like brushing and flossing, this helps keep your teeth clean and prevents the plaque that can lead to decay and, therefore, root canals. Brushing and flossing alone are not enough, as your dentist and hygienist will use special tools that get a more thorough clean. You need these cleanings to keep your mouth healthy.
The other reason that not visiting the dentist can cause root canals is crucial – your dentist does not have a chance to spot issues early. Dentists like Dr. Sharma have the training and experience needed to spot early warning signs of issues with your teeth and gums. They are likely to notice things that you would not.
When your dentist spots an issue early, it is much easier to resolve. Essentially, you don’t give the issue the chance to worsen to the point that it requires a root canal. Spotting the issue early dramatically increases the chances that a less-invasive treatment will work.
Having Long-term Gum Disease
One of the causes of a root canal that may be outside of your control is long-term gum disease. Periodontal disease over the long term will attack the soft tissues by your teeth that support, bind, and provide them with blood flow.
Your dentist can offer treatment options to keep gum disease under control. Doing so can reduce its long-term effects and, therefore, reduce your risk of needing a root canal. However, keep in mind that while a lot of gum disease can be prevented, that is not always the case.
Signs That You May Need a Root Canal
While some of the above causes of a root canal are obvious, that is not always the case. To be safe, you should always consult your dentist if you notice any of the following symptoms, as they may indicate you need a root canal.
- Deep decay
- Darkened gums
- Painful or swollen gums
- Cracked or chipped teeth
- Pimples on the gums
- Sharp pain during chewing or biting
- Lingering tooth sensitivity
How to Prevent Root Canals
Most of the steps that you can take to prevent root canals are the exact opposite of the causes of root canals, with a few exceptions.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Remember, visiting your dentist regularly gives him the chance to spot issues early, letting you treat them before you get to the point of needing a root canal.
Brush and Floss Regularly
As mentioned earlier, brushing and flossing regularly keep your teeth and gums clean. This prevents plaque from forming, which, in turn, prevents the type of deep decay that may require a root canal.
Wear a Mouthguard
We briefly mentioned that injuries to your mouth might require a root canal. You can minimize this risk by wearing a mouthguard when playing any contact sport. You may also want to wear a mouthguard at night if your dentist suggests doing so.
Avoid Crunchy or Hard Foods
You can also reduce your risk by being smart about what you eat. Do not chew on ice or any food item that is very hard or crunchy. This can lead to a fracture, chip, or crack, which could require a root canal.
What Happens If You Ignore the Need for a Root Canal?
When learning about root canals, you need to understand why they are so important. While the above are the most common reasons why you will need a root canal, what would happen if you ignore your dentist’s suggestion and do not get one?
In the best-case scenario, you will have to deal with pain. However, it is also very possible that you will develop an abscess without the root canal. Extreme cases can also cause swelling that spreads to the rest of your head, neck, or face. You may have to deal with bone loss by the root tip of your tooth.
There may even be drainage problems by the root of your tooth and extending from it. In some cases, the tooth may develop a hole in the side. This can result in drainage into your skin or gums.
Can You Opt for a Different Treatment than a Root Canal?
In some cases, you may have an alternative to a root canal, but that is not always possible. The only alternative would be to extract the tooth and give you a removable partial denture, bridge, or implant.
However, those are more expensive, require more time for treatment, and do not preserve your natural tooth. By saving your natural teeth, root canals let you eat normally.
For more information on our services and more contact our dental offices in Chicago today!