How Long Can I Delay Root Canal Treatment?

Dentist Blog

Root canal therapy is not as barbaric as its name suggests. In fact, there is often very little pain during the procedure. Once the nerve, which is also called the dental pulp, becomes infected, it is important to have a root canal done as soon as possible. During a root canal, an endodontist removes the infected tissue and seals the tooth to prevent further damage.

Although root canal therapy has a success rate of over ninety percent, the earlier the treatment the better the chances of a successful outcome. 

The Longer the Wait, the Higher the Risk

Initially, the first indication that a tooth requires a root canal is pain and sensitivity. This means that the dental pulp, which is situated within the central chamber of a tooth, is irritated. Once this happens, the body sends white blood cells to the area to fight off the infection.

Unfortunately, the pulp chamber is tiny. As a result, the buildup of bacteria, dead cells and white blood cells causes pressure to build within the tooth. This increases the pain and sensitivity and invariably leads to the tooth dying. The pulp then begins to rot inside the tooth. The longer a patient delays treatment then, the worse the situation becomes.

Taking Antibiotics Is Not the Answer

Antibiotics will help to fight the infection in the early stages. However, a patient cannot simply take a two-week course of antibiotics and skip root canal therapy. Though the infection might die down, thus reducing the pain, there is still dead tissue within the tooth.

This dead tissue will attract more bacteria, and the problem will continue. A root canal helps to drain the pus that contains the decaying matter and infected tissue. Without a root canal, this pus drains out of the root tip of a tooth, infecting the surrounding bone and causing a pocket of pus (abscess) to form. This means more pain as well as facial swelling.

Early Treatment Is Essential

It is not possible to predict the spread of an infection. The rate at which a tooth deteriorates differs from person to person. While one patient might develop an abscess within a week, it may take another patient 3 weeks to develop an abscess. Only an endodontist or an appropriately trained general dentist can advise you in this matter.

One thing is certain. The longer a patient leaves an infected tooth, the greater the chances of the infection spreading to their jawbone, sinuses—or worse—their brain. As soon as a toothache begins, that is when a patient should seek treatment. A toothache is the signal that the timer for the infection-bomb has begun.  


12 April 2018

Teeth And Tears: Dental Dramas Of A School Nurse

I have worked as a school nurse for decades. Children come to me with all sorts of scrapes and bumps and bruises. Black eyes from playing football, sprained wrists from falling off the monkey bars and stomachaches from too many sweets are common complaints. However, the issue that seems to cause the greatest angst is tooth problems. Sometimes a child will have a second tooth knocked out when playing sport and parents arrive in tears. At other times, children come to my office crying because their friends are teasing them about teeth that are discoloured or stick out. I take an active interest in the latest dental news so that I can give parents and children comfort and advice. I have included some of my collected wisdom on these pages. Perhaps this information can help you understand some options when faced with a dental problem. Thank you for reading.