Root Canal Information


Causes of Root Canal

What causes a need for a root canal?

A lot of people think that bad hygiene is the cause of all teeth problems.  This is only one cause of root canal.

The fact is we inherit our teeth from our parents, determining whether we have hard or soft teeth. Soft teeth decay more readily than hard teeth and take extra careful hygiene to prevent decay and other problems.

Decay is the number one cause of root canal. When the decay progresses to the pulp chamber (middle) of the tooth, you will usually feel sensitivity when you drink something hot or cold. This doesn’t automatically indicate root canal. Sometimes just getting the decay removed and cavity filled takes care of the problem.

If the decay has progressed too far, bacteria can get into the pulp of the tooth and cause a root canal infection, better known as an abscess in the bone at the end of the root of your tooth and  can be seen on x-ray. There are sometimes no symptoms as nerves can die slowly over time.  This is one reason dentists take x-rays during your routine cleaning appointments.

If left untreated, the abscess can get larger and literally eat away at the bone in your jaw causing pain and swelling. This can result in whole body systemic infection that could reach your brain and cause death. (This is VERY rare  but has happened). The only remedy is a root canal or have the tooth removed.

Another cause of root canal is from old metal filling that will shrink over time and decay starts underneath it undetected until you feel pain or temperature sensitivity.

The second most common cause of root canal is tooth fracture caused by clenching or grinding your teeth, eating hard foods or chewing ice. Your tooth can develop hairline type fracture(s) or craze lines that let bacteria into the pulp chamber inflaming the nerve or infecting the tooth. You will not be able to ignore the pain this can cause, especially if you bite something hard and increase the fracture. Chewing on the other side of your mouth is ignoring this problem, not curing it. Unfortunately, that is the route some people take until the tooth becomes infected or the pain unbearable.

However, it is noted by many doctors that different people suffer a different degree of pain in their mouths. X-ray of teeth with abscess that would cause severe pain to most average people have had the patient state that it did not hurt at all! It’s amazing, and dangerous, that some people can have severe tooth problems and not feel strong pain.

The third cause of root canal is trauma.  People that were hit in the mouth as a child, can have the tooth get infected as an adult. Car accidents, work or sports related injuries, and falls that make you snap your teeth together can cause damage to the nerve that may or may not show up right away. 

Also, having deep fillings done on the tooth, taking out old metal fillings and replacing them with composite (white) fillings, or having the tooth drilled down for a crown can be traumatic for some nerves inside the teeth and cause the nerve to get inflamed. Inflamed nerves can sometimes settle down after a short period, or be very painful and require root canal therapy or extraction for relief.