Root Canal Infection: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

A man fixes his teeth at the dentist

Root canal infection is a serious dental condition that can cause severe pain and discomfort. It occurs when bacteria invade the tooth’s innermost layer, known as the pulp. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, and other connective tissues that are essential for the health of your teeth. Root canal infections can lead to abscesses, bone loss, and even tooth loss if left untreated.

What is a Root Canal Infection?

Your teeth are made up of several layers. The outermost layer is the enamel, which protects your teeth from decay and damage. Underneath the enamel is a layer of dentin, which is softer and more vulnerable to decay. At the center of your tooth is the pulp, which contains nerves, blood vessels, and other soft tissues that are essential for the health of your teeth.

When bacteria invade the pulp, it can cause an infection. This is known as a root canal infection. The bacteria can spread through the root canals of your tooth and cause inflammation and pain. When this happens, root canal therapy is necessary to remove the infection and save your natural tooth.

What Causes Root Canal Infection?

Root canal infections can occur after a root canal procedure due to several factors. These include:

  • Poor dental hygiene, such as not brushing and flossing regularly, allowing bacteria to accumulate in the mouth and eventually enter the root canals.
  • A blow to the tooth that causes damage to the enamel, dentin, and pulp, allowing bacteria to enter.
  • A tooth decay that is not treated correctly and spreads to the pulp which causes an infection.
  • The materials used to fill the root canal are not properly sealed, resulting in bacteria entering the root canals.
  • Inadequate cleaning of the root canals during the dental procedure.

Symptoms of Root Canal Infection

#1. Tooth Pain

Tooth pain is the most common symptom of a root canal infection. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be constant or intermittent. It may be localized to one tooth or spread to other teeth, and it may worsen when you bite down on the affected tooth.

#2. Sensitivity

Root canal infections can cause extreme sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. This is because the infection has caused inflammation in the pulp of your tooth, which is responsible for sensing temperature changes. You may experience sharp pain when you eat or drink something hot or cold, and this pain may last for several minutes after you have finished eating or drinking.

#3. Tooth Discoloration

Your pulp contains blood vessels and other tissues that give your tooth its color. When the pulp is infected, these tissues can become damaged, resulting in discoloration of the affected tooth. The discoloration may be yellow, gray, or brown and may be more noticeable when you look at the tooth from the side.

#4. Bad Breath

Bacteria produce toxins and other substances that can give off an unpleasant odor. The bad breath may be worse because of the pus from the infected tooth.

#5. Pus Discharge

This pus may be visible as a yellow or white discharge from the affected tooth. It may also have a foul smell and taste. If you notice any pus coming from your tooth, it is essential to seek treatment right away, as this is a sign of an infection that needs to be treated.

#6. Tenderness or Swelling in the Gum Tissue

When the bacterial infection has spread to the surrounding tissues, you may experience tenderness or swelling in the gum tissue near the affected tooth. This can be painful and may make it difficult to chew or brush your teeth.

If you experience any of these signs of infection, it is important to seek treatment right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the infection from becoming more serious and causing further damage to your teeth and gums.

Treatment for an Infected Root Canal

Root canal treatment is the only way to treat an infected root canal. During this procedure, your dentist will:

  • Take an X-ray to determine the extent of the infection.
  • Numb the affected area with a local anesthetic
  • Place a protective barrier over the affected tooth to protect the surrounding tissue.
  • Remove the infected pulp and any debris from the root canals by using special instruments.
  • Clean and shape the root canal to remove any remaining bacteria and old filling material.
  • Fill and seal the root canal with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha.
  • Place a crown or other restoration on the affected tooth to protect it from further damage.

Once the root canal treatment is complete, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help clear up any remaining infection. It is important to take all of your medications as prescribed and follow up with your dentist for regular checkups to ensure that the infection has been completely cleared.

Oral Health Tips to Prevent Root Canal Infection

Good oral hygiene is essential for preventing root canal infections. Here are some tips to help you maintain good oral health and reduce your risk of developing a root canal infection:

  • Brush and floss regularly to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth and along the gum line.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups. This will help catch infections early and prevent them from becoming more serious.
  • Wear a mouthguard when playing sports or engaging in other activities that could cause trauma to the teeth.
  • Don’t delay your restoration treatments, such as fillings or crowns, as this can increase your risk of infection.
  • Take your medications as prescribed and follow up with your dentist for regular checkups.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

A root canal infection can cause severe damage to your teeth and gums if left untreated. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is essential to seek treatment right away. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced dentists. We will be happy to provide you with a comprehensive evaluation and discuss your treatment options.