Our teeth are made up of several layers: Enamel the outer layer which has no feeling. Below this is Dentine which contains nerves and is sensitive to stimulants (sweet foods, hot, cold). At the centre of the tooth we reach the Pulp Chamber and the roots that hold the teeth into the jaw. Inside these roots are the canals that contain the nerves of the teeth. A tooth can have anything from 1-5 canals and they can be all different shapes and sizes.
If bacteria can get through the outer layers of the tooth, through a cavity or a crack, and it reaches the central chamber and enters the canals it can cause an infection that slowly kills the nerves of the tooth. This infection is what causes a Dental abscess. It is this dying of the nerve that will cause the typical and often severe pain of a Dental abscess.
What is an Abscess?
An abscess can take the form of a lump or sore spot on the gum, usually above the tooth that has the infection. It can also not produce any visual symptoms and can only be seen on by a Dentist using a Dental X-ray taken of the canals. An abscess forms when the infection in the canals is draining from the tooth and causes a pressure build up as the nerves are dying.
What does it feel like if the nerves of a tooth are dying?
Symptoms of a dying tooth that has led to an abscess usually consist of: An extreme sensitivity to hot drinks and foods, pain and throbbing that can spread to the whole jaw, pain that wakes you up at night and progressively gets worse over time. Sometimes the symptoms can be mild and sometimes severe so it is important to see your Dentist if you have any concerns or if you are aware of any holes in your teeth even if you aren’t experiencing any pain.
How are the dead or dying nerves treated?
Once the nerve of a tooth have been exposed to bacteria and is dying, it will not recover. The condition needs to be treated by a Dentist to stop any further problems, pain or infections. This treatment is done in the form of a Root Canal Filling.
What happens at a Root Canal procedure?
Your Dentist will gently numb up the area using a local anaesthetic. He will then use specialist Dental equipment to cut down into the tooth and access the canals. Once he has found all of the canals he will clean out any dead or dying nerves, and any infection. He will do this until the canals are clean and sterile. He then places a special putty into the canals that will expand to fit the whole of the canal leaving no gaps. This will ensure no bacteria can enter the canals in the future and cause further infection. The tooth is then restored using either filling or a crown, whatever is most suitable for the particular tooth.
How long does a Root Canal procedure take?
This treatment is very complex and must be done precisely and accurately in order to be effective. It is usual for the procedure to take roughly 2 hours, and is sometimes done over two appointments a few weeks apart. But do not worry! The procedure, although long, is totally pain free we promise!
Sometimes a particular Root Canal procedure can be more complex and difficult than others, on these occasions we may refer to a specialist Dentist, called and Endodontist, who has undergone extensive further training in Root Canal procedures. If we feel a referral is in your best interest, the dentist will discuss this with you at your appointment.