Root Canal Infection

What Is a Root Canal Infection?

The root canal system is a space in the center of your tooth that contains the tooth's nerve and blood vessels, also known as the pulp.  The pulp is particularly vulnerable to bacterial infection.  When bacteria invade the root canal system via deep decay, cracks, trauma, or gum disease, a root canal infection results.  Symptoms of infection include temperature sensitivity, pain to chew, swelling, drainage from the gums, or pain in the tooth and gums.  However, some infections present without any symptoms. If you develop a root canal infection, your dentist will most likely recommend root canal therapy to treat the infection.


How Are Root Canal Infections Diagnosed?

Dr. Nerness will first want to know the history of your symptoms.  Dr. Nerness will usually take an x-ray of the tooth to evaluate the crown, roots, root canals, and supporting bone.  In certain cases, a dental CT may be necessary to determine the extent of the infection.  Since early root canal infections may not show up on the x-ray, Dr. Nerness will also complete a thorough examination of your teeth to evaluate for signs of infection.   


What Are My Treatment Options?

  • Root Canal Therapy
  • Re-treatment
  • Surgery
  • Extraction
  • No treatment

Root canal therapy is usually the ideal option because it will treat the infection and allow you to retain your natural tooth.  Although most root canal infections heal with conservative root canal therapy, if your infection returns or fails to resolve, re-treatment or surgery may be needed.  Extraction is an alternative option which removes the infection, but at the expense of losing your tooth. Choosing no treatment is not advised.  If you choose no treatment, the root canal infection will usually worsen and cause damage to the supporting bone around the tooth.