When you are at risk of losing a tooth due to serious decay, your dentist may recommend root canal treatment as an alternative to tooth extraction. During the procedure, the dentist will remove the pulp from the center of your tooth and then fill the pulp cavity. This is meant to prevent infection from developing in the pulp and then spreading to other teeth, which could be extremely painful. Ideally, root canal treatment should relieve toothache, promote healing and prevent infection. However, the procedure could also expose you to certain risks as well.
One of the common risks of a root canal procedure is bleeding, soreness or pain which could last for several days after the treatment. However, these could easily be treated with pain medication. In some cases, you may experience an infection and may need to be treated with antibiotics.
In some cases, your body may react negatively to local anesthesia which could cause your heart rate to increase and your hands to feel shaky. Although this is temporary, it could make the procedure uncomfortable since anesthesia is necessary during such a procedure. In addition, you may experience a temporary stiffness and soreness in your jaw as a result of holding your mouth open during the procedure and when getting injections. This could also result in redness or cracks in the corners of your mouth.
There is also a possibility of lingering numbness after the procedure that could last for up to 4 months. This will usually occur when a nerve is damaged during the anesthesia injection. This is usually experienced in the lower jaw, which could also leave your tongue or lip numb for an extended period. Numbness could also occur as a result of temporary infection or swelling that clears up after a few weeks if properly treated.
During root canal treatment, the dentist removes the pulp inside your tooth, which makes it more fragile. This could increase the risk of the tooth breaking or fracturing since it is weakened by the original cavity or large filling. This could occur even before the final root canal visit. It is important to return to your dentist immediately for a permanent filling. Serious fracture could lead to a tooth extraction, so it is important for your dentist to assess and determine whether your teeth are strong enough for the procedure beforehand.
Conditions that increase risk
Root canal treatment is not a viable option in certain situations. For instance, if you suffer from gum disease, this significantly increases the possibility of losing the tooth even when root canal treatment is successful. In addition, your root canals may be twisted, curved or blocked, which could prevent the removal of all the infected or inflamed pulp. This may require an additional procedure since leaving pulp in the root canal could cause your symptoms to worsen.
If the tooth is severely decayed or infected, you may not want to go through the discomfort and expense of the procedure. However, it is still important to note that majority of such procedures are successful.