Just the mention of a root canal can strike fear into the hearts of many people. For some, a root canal procedure seems like an extremely painful treatment. And for other people, the cost of root canal therapy may put them off. But if your dentist has recommended a root canal, they have done so because you have—or may soon have—infected material inside one of your teeth.
Root canal treatment removes the infected tissue from inside an infected tooth. Your dentist can then seal the tooth and send you on your way. But, if you skip root canal treatment, you will likely pay the price in several ways sometime in the future.
Spread of infection
Your teeth are in close proximity to arteries and veins that run through your jaws, such as the inferior alveolar artery and the retromandibular vein. When an infection starts inside a tooth, it attacks the collection of blood vessels inside the tooth. And once that bundle of blood vessels dies, the tooth dies along with it. At that point, bacteria feast on the dead material.
The collection of dead blood cells, white cells, and bacteria turn into pus. With nowhere to go, the pus forms an abscess at the tip of the tooth root. As the infection worsens, more pus spreads from the infection site. That pus and the infection in it could then spread to other parts of your body via the veins and arteries in your jaw. If not treated then, a tooth infection could make you very ill.
You can treat an initial tooth infection with antibiotics, but as long as there is necrotic material inside a tooth, the infection may start up again at any time. So even if the pain subsides and the infection dies down, reinfection can cause another abscess to form and yet more facial swelling and severe pain.
Root canal therapy is less painful than a severe tooth infection, especially since your dentist can administer a local anesthetic prior to the surgery.
Tooth and bone loss
A severe tooth infection can spread to the area around an infected tooth, destroying the supporting bone and gum tissue that hold the tooth in place. So, if you skip a root canal, your infection may damage your jawbone and cause the affected tooth to eventually fall out. You can save your infected tooth with root canal therapy and prevent any damage from occurring to your jawbone.