What causes a toothache?
Every tooth has a nerve inside it. The nerve runs from the middle of the crown of the tooth; the area known as the pulp, to the tip of the root, called the apex. If the tooth has more than one root, then each root will have a nerve running along it’s length. The canal or pathway that takes the nerve from the top of the tooth to the bottom is know as the root canal.
On occasion the nerve of the tooth can have a problem that leads to pain, swelling, or even infection. Most often this occurs when the nerve inside the tooth has died, or is in the process of dying. This pain is what most often causes what people describe as a “toothache”. When this happens many people experience a very heightened sensitivity to cold, hot, or pressure. Often these stimuli will make an achy tooth even more painful, or take a calm tooth and cause it to start aching.
Nerve pain and nerve death can be caused be several things. The most common are deep cavities that reach the nerve. Deep fillings that are very close to the pulp or nerve can irritate it enough to cause it to die as well. Also, deep cracks in teeth can kill a nerve.
Once a nerve is determined to be dead or dying it needs to be removed in it’s entirety from the tooth. This treatment is call root canal therapy. Contrary to popular belief, root canal therapy is usually completely painlessly. Additionally, it usually resolves the tooth ache or pain almost immediately. This allows a person the keep a tooth long-term which would otherwise require extraction.
What is a root canal?
The actual process usually takes just one appointment and involves anesthetizing the tooth prior to treatment. A small hole is then made in the top of the tooth. Small instruments are then inserted through this hole, down the entire length of the root canal or root canals. These instruments are used to clean every last trace of the nerve completely out of tooth. The root canal is then chemically sterilized, dried, and then sealed with a rubber-like material. The tooth is finally restored with either a filling or a crown.