Dr. Kami Hoss founded The Super Dentists in 1996. It has since grown from a single-doctor practice to more than 120 employees, working across five offices in San Diego.

Did you know that teeth have nerves? That’s right; there’s more to what you see from the outer shell of a tooth, that outer shell being the enamel. In fact, human teeth are entirely made up of dental tissues, three hard tissues (enamel, dentin, and cementum) and one soft tissue (pulp). The pulp is where the nerves in the tooth are located, as well as blood vessels and other connective tissue. When the pulp gets infected or becomes inflamed, that’s when a patient is said to have a root canal infection.

Root Canals

You may be wondering why it’s called a root canal infection, rather than pulp infection, though both essentially point to the same thing. Generally, when you say root canal, it’s understood you’re referring to the dental procedure that tries to preserve a dead tooth. It’s a misconception that root canals aim to save a tooth when its goal is to preserve whatever remains of the tooth. Remember that root canals occur when the pulp is inflamed and infected, which means the tooth is already dying, and therefore, there’s nothing that can be done to revive it.

So why try to preserve a dead tooth when you can just pull it out? For one, you’d need to get dental implants to fill in the gap left by the pulled-out tooth so you can chew and speak properly. This is also why root canals are such lengthy procedures; because it involves numerous steps, like removing the infected pulp and nerves, cleaning out the rest of the tooth, and finally, sealing it.

Dentist Woman Wearing White Gloves and White Scrubsuit Checking Boy's Teeth

Root Canal Infection

There are numerous indicators that can suggest you already have a root canal infection. While the best way of knowing is still to consult your dentist, you should have an idea of what’s happening to your tooth when you exhibit the following:

1. Feel severe pain – The most telling sign is when you experience pain for seemingly no reason at all, doing nothing, or when you lie down or go for a run, for instance. This kind of pain suggests you may already have a dead tooth.

2. Have teeth sensitivity – Do you feel pain after drinking something hot or cold? Watch out for pain that lingers even after the hot or cold stimuli has been removed, as this is what suggests the nerves inside your teeth are dying. Conversely, pain that goes away suggests the nerves are still alive and can potentially recover.

3. Fistula on the gum – A fistula is a small bump that resembles a pimple on the gums. Colored yellow, white, or red, a fistula is made up of the infection’s components and blood that’s trying to get out of the body. It need not necessarily be located right where the painful tooth is.

When you see your dentist for a root canal, he/she will typically ask you questions about your tooth and your experience, and request for an x-ray to determine whether or not you have a root canal infection.

Stay tuned to this page to read more from Dr. Kami Hoss.