Root Canal Therapy for an Abscessed Tooth

By J. Brent Gorrell on February 12, 2019

Digital before and after image of root canal therapyThere are many ways to address a cracked or fractured tooth. However, if decay or damage has affected the innermost portion, or the pulp, of a tooth, root canal therapy will be necessary to save it from extraction.

At Gorrell Smiles in Mountain View, CA, Dr. J. Brent Gorrell offers endodontic treatment, including root canal therapy for a dental abscess. Here, we discuss the procedure and explain how this treatment can alleviate pain and improve your oral health.

What Is a Dental Abscess and How Do I Know if I Have One?

A dental abscess refers to a pocket of pus or infection in the gums. While some abscesses can be caused by gum disease, the type we will discuss here is a periapical abscess, which develops around the tip of a tooth root.

Once present, the infection can spread rapidly, leading to bad breath, fever, and discomfort. A periapical abscess is caused by a bacterial infection in the pulp chamber, typically as the result of severe decay or a cracked tooth.

Common symptoms of a periapical abscess include:

  • A swollen jaw
  • A pimple on the gums
  • Pain or sensitivity when chewing or biting
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Bad taste or bad breath
  • Radiating pain near the jawbone, ear, or neck

If you notice any of these warning signs, schedule a visit with your dentist right away. A comprehensive evaluation can help your doctor determine the best course of action.

Diagnosing a Dental Abscess

Dr. Gorrell will conduct several tests to determine the cause of your problem. Sometimes, a dental abscess is obvious; other times it is not.

In addition to a visual assessment, Dr. Gorrell will ask you about the affected tooth. Typically, a tooth affected by a periapical abscess will feel sensitive to pressure or touch.

X-rays or scans will also be taken, which should highlight any problematic areas around the tooth root.

Root Canal Therapy

If the infected tooth still has adequate healthy structure remaining, root canal therapy will be recommended.

To perform this procedure, Dr. Gorrell numbs the tooth and accesses the internal structures by creating a small hole in the chewing surface.

Next, all connective tissues, including nerves and blood vessels, are removed. The canals and chamber are then cleaned, thoroughly disinfected, and filled with gutta percha, a rubbery dental material.

Finally, the tooth is sealed to prevent bacteria from re-infecting the tooth. In many instances, a dental crown is also recommended to strengthen the tooth and restore the bite.

Root canal treatment is tailored to the needs of the individual. In most cases, this treatment can be completed in one to two office visits.

Other Treatments for a Dental Abscess

Many patients want to know if there are alternative treatments available for dental abscesses. In short, yes there are. However, none of the options are permanent.

For example, Dr. Gorrell may incise the abscess and drain off the pus. He may also prescribe antibiotics to reduce the amount of infection at the site.

These treatments only provide temporary relief, and are sometimes recommended prior to root canal therapy, depending on the case.

If root canal therapy is not deemed a viable or predictable option, then an extraction may be recommended as a last resort.

Contact Gorrell Smiles Today

If you notice pain, tenderness, or swelling in the jaw or around a tooth, do not wait for your symptoms to progress. Schedule a visit with Dr. Gorrell by calling (650) 967-1441. You can also contact us online anytime.

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Mountain View Office

809 Cuesta Dr
Ste 205
Mountain View, CA 94040

Open Today 7:00am - 7:00pm

More Info Directions (650) 967-1441