In the middle of a healthy tooth there is living tissue that we call the pulp.
Occasionally teeth die or the pulp can become inflamed. This can have several causes, for example; trauma, dental decay, deep fillings, or sometimes there is no obvious reason.
Signs of pulp damage may include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, swelling, tenderness of the overlying gums or a bad taste in the mouth. On the other hand, there may be no symptoms at all.
If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can eventually cause pain, swelling and loss of the supporting bone.
This could be caused because a dead tooth can contain the septic remains of what used to be the pulp. This can lead to an infection at the base of the root that we call an abscess. Abscesses can be very painful.
Commonly these teeth have to be extracted but often they can be saved by root canal treatment.
After root canal treatment the tooth contains no nerves. However, there are normal tissues surrounding the root: the gum, periodontal membrane and supporting bone. After a while, a root canal treated tooth should feel no different to any other.
Very occasionally a root canal treatment will fail and further treatment may be required. However, any symptoms will usually pass with time. Generally, root treated teeth should last indefinitely but they can become brittle. This can cause part of the tooth to fracture and for that reason, dentists will sometimes recommend a crown.
Daily brushing and flossing are essential to avoid gum disease and decay. As always, regular check-ups are essential and will enable your dentist to detect any problems in their early stages.