Is your tooth throbbing, or are you experiencing searing pain? Maybe you also have a fever or are noticing some pus coming from the area where your tooth meets your gums. These are all signs of a tooth infection, a condition that needs to be addressed by your dentist promptly before it spreads to other tissues, like your blood or brain. Here's a look at how your dentist will likely treat the infection.
A Root Canal
Generally, the infection is found in the roots of the tooth. This is where the nerves and blood vessels come into the tooth, which is why a tooth infection causes so much pain. (The resulting swelling aggravates the nerve root.) Once infected, these tissues are often so damaged that they're not worth saving. Your dentist will therefore use a procedure called a root canal to remove the infected tooth material.
Though root canals have the reputation of being painful, you should not feel a thing during the procedure since it will be performed under local anesthesia. Your dentist will drill through your tooth, remove the infected material, and then place silicone material in the tooth roots to keep them from collapsing. Then, your tooth will be filled and perhaps covered with a crown to protect it from additional damage. Sometimes, you may be given a temporary crown for a week or so and then later be fitted with the permanent crown.
Your tooth may feel a bit sore after the root canal treatment, but taking over-the-counter pain relievers should keep the pain at bay.
Your dentist will probably also prescribe you antibiotics to take for a few days after your root canal procedure. This will help your body fight off any bacteria lingering in the tooth or gum tissue after the root canal surgery. It's important that you take the antibiotic for the full time that's recommended. Otherwise, the infection may come back and cause you to lose the tooth completely.
In rare cases, your emergency dentist may not be able to save your tooth with a root canal. This is most likely to be the case if the tooth that is infected already has several fillings. Your dentist may fear that the tooth will crack apart if he or she drills into it to remove the infected material. In this case, the tooth will be extracted, and you can opt to have a dental implant put in its place.