If your tooth feels painful or sensitive, it might be infected. Dentists usually recommend root canal therapy to save an infected tooth, restore its function and stop the infection from spreading.
If you have a more severe infection, the only option might be to have the tooth pulled out. Dentists will always recommend trying to save a tooth over an extraction, as a missing tooth creates more problems.
What are the signs of a tooth infection?
A tooth can become infected when bacteria enter the dental pulp – the soft tissue at the centre of the tooth. This can happen if tooth decay wears down the enamel or if your tooth gets chipped or cracked.
You might have a tooth pulp infection if:
- you have a severe toothache, especially when chewing
- your teeth feel more sensitive to temperature, even after the source is removed
- your tooth looks darker
- the gum around your tooth is swollen and sore
If you notice a pimple on your gum or swelling in your face or neck around the tooth, these could be signs that you also have a dental abscess. This needs urgent attention from your dentist.
Sometimes a tooth infection doesn't have obvious symptoms. That's why it's important to have regular check-ups with your dentist, so they can catch problems before they become more serious.
What does a root canal involve?
Some people are scared at the thought of root canal therapy, but it's not usually any more painful than a filling, as local anaesthesia is used to numb your mouth. Removing the infection also removes the source of pain, so a root canal will relieve the pain and discomfort of an infected tooth. The procedure sometimes takes several visits to complete.
After taking an x-ray of your mouth to plan the treatment, your dentist will drill into the tooth and remove the infected pulp tissue. After disinfecting the tooth, they'll shape it and place inside a synthetic filling. The tooth is then closed with a white filling or dental crown.
What does an extraction involve?
If your tooth is too badly infected or damaged to save, you'll likely need an extraction. This may be straightforward or complex, depending on the condition of the tooth and how far the infection's spread. Extractions are performed using local anaesthetic, but general anaesthesia may be needed in more complex cases.
Your dentist might be able to remove the tooth simply by rocking it loose with forceps, or they may have to perform oral surgery to remove part of the tooth from below the gum. Your dentist will discuss options to replace the missing tooth after your gum has healed, as without support, the teeth on either side of the gap could become crooked.
Talk to a dentist in Sydney CBD
If you think you might have a tooth infection, or you want to see a dentist for any other reason, get in touch with our team at Sydney CBD Dental today.
Call (02) 9232 3900 to book an appointment at our George Street dental clinic or book online.
Healthdirect. Root canal treatment [Online] 2019 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/root-canal-treatment
Healthdirect. Tooth extraction [Online] 2019 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/tooth-extraction