A root canal treatment is necessary to removed infected, inflamed and/or dead tissue from the hollow chamber of a tooth. Many people find out that they need a root canal treatment when they develop a toothache or dental abscess. Often, the first line of attack is the prescription of antibiotics to reduce any infection prior to the procedure.
The problem is that the antibiotics may also relieve the pain enough that people are hesitant to proceed with the necessary dental procedure. This is risky for multiple reasons, and this article will explain why you should NOT put off a root canal treatment.
Risk of Severe Pain
Just because your toothache has gone doesn’t mean it won’t return. There are multiple factors involved in when a toothache can resurge after taking a round of antibiotics. For some patients, the relief lasts for several months, but for others who are a little less lucky, the pain can return as soon as the initial antibiotic regimen is complete.
Unfortunately, when the pain of a toothache returns, it can actually be worse than the original toothache. By putting off a needed root canal treatment, you are placing yourself at risk for another severe toothache.
Risk of Loss of Jawbone
When a tooth needs a root canal treatment due to an infected nerve, the bacteria infecting the internal chamber of the tooth can travel to the surrounding jawbone through a tiny pore in the tip of each root. This leads to an infection in the bone around the root, and it shows up on a dental x-ray as a dark halo or shadow. We call this a periapical radiolucency. The change in the appearance of the bone indicates that the infection has destroyed the bone.
When no dental treatment intercepts this infection, it continues to destroy jawbone around the tooth. In severe cases, it can spread to neighboring teeth.
The reason this matters is that healthy bone is necessary to replace a missing tooth with a dental implant. If an infection destroys too much bone around a tooth, it could affect future dental treatment.
Risk of Spreading Infection
This is the most important reason of all to NOT put off a root canal treatment. As we discussed in the earlier section, the infection around a tooth destroys the surrounding jawbone. Over time, that infection will continue growing and eventually spread outside the jawbone into other areas of the body.
In rare cases, people have died from dental infections. This is due to the risk of the infection spreading into life-threatening areas. A dental infection can spread into the area underneath the tongue and close off the airway, leading to death by choking. The bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause death by septicemia. An infection can also spread through certain fascial planes into the brain and kill you.
While this risk is rare, it is very serious. By putting off a root canal treatment, you could be literally putting your life at risk.
Risk of Developing Tolerance to Antibiotics
As we mentioned, the toothache may subside after taking a round of antibiotics, which fools many people into thinking they do not require treatment. Without dental treatment to remove the infected nerve tissue, the infection remains in your body. We have no way of knowing when it will flare up into a toothache or abscess.
The problem is that when it does, taking a second round of antibiotics may be less effective. People often build up a tolerance to antibiotics (to be clear, it is actually the bacteria that build up a resistance), so that they don’t “work” when you take them again.
This means that you may require stronger and stronger medications to fight the infection. Antibiotics are powerful infection fights, and they must only be used as needed and taken exactly as prescribed.
More Questions about Root Canal Treatments?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to schedule a visit with our endodontist. She can answer any question you have about root canals and assess your current needs.