So you came in to the dental office for an exam, and now you’ve been told you need a root canal. But you’re wondering: Do I really have to do this? I’ve heard all sorts of things about the process. What if I wait a while — would that be so bad?
The answer is: It just might! Whenever we dentists recommend a root canal procedure, we have good reasons for doing so. Here are the top five causes why you shouldn’t delay getting this important treatment.
- The tooth is infected and dying; a root canal stops the infection. While the outer layers of the tooth are hard, the inner pulp is made of soft, living tissue. This tissue sometimes becomes infected, and begins to die. Once that occurs, treatment is needed right away — to stop the pain, control the infection, and keep it from spreading.
- Root Canal Treatment Alleviates Pain. That’s right: Root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it. The procedure is relatively painless, despite the old stories you might have heard. In fact, it’s not unlike having a cavity treated, though it may take a little longer. So if you’re experiencing tooth pain, remember that the sooner you get it treated, the sooner you’ll be pain-free.
- It won’t get better on its own, if you ignore some things, they will go away. Root canal problems aren’t one of those things. In some cases, if you wait long enough, the pain will go away. But that’s not a good sign, because the problem won’t go away on its own; it simply means that the nerves inside the tooth are all dead. The infection continues to smolder like glowing coals in a fire.
- But it could get worse. Left untreated, bacteria from the infected tooth pulp can travel through the roots of the tooth and into the tissue of the gums and jaw. That can cause a painful, pus-filled abscess to form, which will require urgent treatment. In extreme cases, it can also result in increasing systemic (whole-body) inflammation, potentially putting you at risk for more serious situations, like heart disease and stroke.
- Root Canal Treatment Can Save the Tooth. If you neglect treatment of a root canal problem long enough, you’re at serious risk for losing the infected tooth. And tooth loss, once it starts, can bring on a host of other problems — like an enlarged risk of tooth decay on remaining teeth, as well as gum disease, bite problems and, as oral health problems escalate, even more tooth loss.