Some patients have taken to viewing the root canal as a treatment that is reserved strictly for emergencies. Fortunately, this isn’t entirely true. In many cases, there’s no need to fear a root canal as an emergency procedure.
In most cases, the need for a root canal rises from the sl0w-growth of a cavity that’s caused by bacteria that’s worked it’s way into your tooth. This inherently makes a root canal a procedure that isn’t usually an emergency. However, an emergency can sometimes arise that can require a root canal. Generally, this happens when the infection in the root of your tooth travels beyond the root and to the underlying bone. When this occurs, the infection finds itself trapped between two incredibly tough objects – your tooth and the underlying bone.
When this occurs, the infection festers and continues to grow. This can lead to inflammation, pain, swelling, fever, and even the eventual spread of the infection to other tissues (or even into your bloodstream). In most cases, infection will be handled by your dentist before the infection ever reaches this stage. However, if a cavity is allowed to progress this far without treatment it’s very likely your dentist will recommend emergency root canal treatment.
Another situation that might require emergency root canal treatment is a broken tooth. Naturally, if you’ve broken a tooth there’s an incredibly good chance that you’re already going to call your dentist. Your biggest concern isn’t root canal treatment, but finding a solution for your broken tooth. However, there’s a good chance that – if the broken tooth has exposed the dental pulp – an emergency root canal might be required to take care of any bacteria and ensure your tooth can be repaired successfully without risking future infection or damage.
However, sometimes a root canal treatment isn’t the best solution for a broken tooth. In many cases, if the broken tooth is bad enough your dentist might simply recommend replacing the entire tooth. Think of the situation as if a home has been completely obliterated by a natural disaster. Repairing a few windows and structural damage here and there is one thing, but attempting to repair a home that’s been lifted off its foundation – flipped twice – and dropped on its roof might be more expensive than completely rebuilding it.
The Bottom Line
The are many occasions where a root canal might be recommended as a treatment to eliminate bacteria and prevent tooth damage. Most of these are not emergencies, and will be recommended by your dentist at your next appointment. However, for broken teeth or cavities that have been ignored for long periods of time, an emergency root canal might be in order.