Let me tell you, there are few things worse than severe dental pain! And regardless of how you first noticed there may be a problem, sometimes the only worthwhile long term solution is to kill off the nerve in your tooth that’s causing all the distress.
But I can guess what you might be thinking. How is it done? Is it dangerous? Will it hurt? What are the consequences? Well, fear not, because this article is going to cover everything you need to know about killing a nerve in your tooth.
Including when it may be necessary, how it’s done, and how it will affect your eating in the future. Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you. Here goes.
What Is Meant By Killing The Nerve In The Tooth?
Let’s kick things off with a few basics. First off, technically speaking, the dentist does not actually kill off the tooth’s nerve.
Instead, what actually happens is that the dentist physically removes the nerve altogether, in a process known as root canal treatment.
The term “killing the nerve” is synonymous with this treatment, even though that isn’t technically what’s going on.
Why Do We Need Nerves In Our Teeth?
So, it turns out that the nerves that travel through the root of your tooth to its center aren’t particularly important for the tooth’s health and function. The only function it has is to detect whether what you’re eating or drinking is hot or cold.
When Is It Necessary For A Dentist To Perform A Root Canal And “Kill” The Nerve?
Dental pain can have a variety of different causes, but not all dental pain should be seen as a sign that you need a root canal…
A root canal is quite a delicate procedure, and it is only necessary under certain circumstances.
Quite often, dental pain can be treated with less intensive procedures such as a regular filling, which can be carried out without “killing” or removing the nerve entirely.
There are several symptoms that may indicate that you will benefit from root canal treatment. This includes persistent pain, a crack or chip in the tooth, sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink, pain when you chew, and swollen gums. (You may not get every symptom.)
A root canal becomes necessary when damage to the tooth, or damage to the filling of a tooth, has become infected and has caused the pulp around the nerve to become inflamed. This is because a course of antibiotics cannot completely heal an infected tooth.
Sometimes, performing a root canal is the only way to preserve a tooth that might otherwise have to be extracted altogether.
If a root canal is delayed for too long, the bacterial infection can spread to other areas of the mouth, putting you at risk for more serious conditions. You may not be eligible for root canal treatment if you suffer from high blood pressure.
How Dentists “Kill” The Nerve (AKA Root Canal Treatment)
Root canal treatment can be carried out either by a regular dentist, or by an endodontist, which is another word for “root canal specialist”.
Although a root canal is a more involved procedure than a regular filling, it doesn’t actually take all that long to carry out.
The dentist will begin by injecting an anesthetic into your gums to numb them, so that you won’t feel any pain during the procedure. The anesthetic gets to work in a matter of minutes, and once fully numb, the dentist can proceed.
The dentist will then apply a thin sheet that allows them to focus on the tooth in question and block the surrounding teeth. This provides a sterile environment. The dentist then has to drill a small hole into the pulp chamber.
Then, special tools are used to remove both the dead pulp tissue and the nerves. At this stage, the dentist must disinfect the inside of that tooth.
Then the hole in the tooth gets a deep, thorough clean, and any debris is removed. At this stage, the dentist can then apply the filling, which is made from a thermoplastic material known as gutta-percha, which is set in place with an adhesive sealer. This serves to prevent the tooth from getting reinfected again.
That’s the final stage, and once that’s done, you can take a quick swill of water, gargle, and spit to be rid of any debris that may be left in your month. The numbness may continue for a few hours after the procedure is finished.
Does Tooth Nerve Treatment Hurt?
When done correctly, the only pain you are likely to feel is the scratch when the needle goes in to apply the anesthetic. Once the anesthetic is fully working, you will feel no pain.
Will I Still Be Able To Chew Properly After Root Canal Treatment?
The day following your root canal treatment, you will be more than capable of eating and chewing just as you normally would.
This is because, as mentioned earlier, the nerve in your tooth serves no real purpose beyond detecting the temperature of food and drink.
What’s more, the filling you receive as part of the root canal treatment will make your new and improved tooth just as sturdy and solid as a regular tooth.
However, it’s important to note at this point that you should not attempt to eat anything right after the treatment, and it’s recommended that you wait at least until the numbness has worn off.
Once the numbness has worn off, you may experience a little soreness and sensitivity to particularly hot or icy food and drinks. This is perfectly normal. For this reason, we recommend that you stick with soft lukewarm food and drink following the procedure.
So, in summary, a dentist does not actually kill the nerves in your teeth, but if deemed necessary they can perform a root canal, which is a procedure where the nerve is removed from the tooth.