Everything You Need To Know About Tooth Infections And Root Canal Therapy

Cavities are incredibly common, but they aren't the only oral issue that can arise. Tooth infections are also common, and they can cause major pain and lead to the death of the tooth. If you would like to know more about tooth infections and root canal therapy, keep reading.

What Causes a Tooth Infection?

Just like cavities, bacteria cause tooth infections. However, the infection develops when the bacteria reach the tooth's pulp, but cavities form when the bacteria reach the dentin. The pulp holds the "live" tissue like nerves and blood vessels, and the bacteria destroys this tissue.

In some cases, severe decay leads to infection. As a cavity grows, it may eventually reach the tooth's pulp, causing the infection. In other cases, trauma may cause a crack that serves as a pathway for bacteria to reach the pulp.

What Are the Signs of a Tooth Infection?

One of the leading symptoms of a tooth infection is pain, but some minor infections may present without pain or many signs. Pain medication, including over-the-counter and prescription medications, may not help with the pain, but antibiotics fight the infection, reducing the pressure and pain on the tooth's nerves. 

You may also have visible pus, redness, tenderness, bitter taste (from the pus), and unpleasant breath (from the pus). Your dentist performs a few tests, including a tap test. If the tooth hurts when gently tapped, it's a good indication of an infection. X-rays are also used to see under the gumline where infections often hide. Even if you have no signs or symptoms, your dentist can see the infection on the X-ray.

What Is Root Canal Therapy?

In most cases, antibiotics alone fight infections. However, tooth infections often return unless the tooth's pulp is fully removed. In the past, only extraction treated a tooth infection, but root canal therapy is an alternative.

During the procedure, the entire tooth's pulp is removed. This requires cleaning out the tissue in the thin roots of the tooth too. If the dentist misses any tissue, the infection may return. After treatment, the tooth is weak but works like a normal tooth. You can strengthen it with a dental crown.

A tooth infection can ruin your day by causing intense pain, but some patients don't realize they have an infection until the dentist takes routine X-rays. Luckily, you don't need to have your tooth extracted to treat the infection. If you would like to know more, contact a dentist in your area, such as John B Webster DDS.