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If a cavity in your mouth has progressed too far, you might need a root canal treatment to save the damaged tooth. Today we’re going to show you how cavities can progress to the point where you either save the tooth or have it extracted.

Let’s look at what makes up a tooth so you can see why decay is bad for your teeth! Your tooth is made up of a crown, or the part of the tooth you can see. The part you can’t see is the root of the tooth, and it is lodged in the bone to secure the tooth in place. The crown’s outer surface is the tooth enamel, a hard mineralized material that protects the softer dentin layer below. The enamel is the first line of defense protecting your teeth against cavities. The dentin houses millions of little tubes that connect to the tooth pulp. The pulp is the softest tissue in the tooth, the nerve tissue and blood vessels.

How cavities lead to a root canal

When you eat sugary/starchy foods, harmful oral bacteria feed off it and releases acids that attack the tooth enamel. The bacterial acids dissolve the enamel in a process known as demineralization. As pits form in the enamel, decay begins. In the early stage of tooth decay, our dentist can spot it because of white spots or shadows on an X-ray. So, if you’re skipping your routine checkups, a cavity is born.

Over time, the decay spreads through the enamel, dentin and into the tooth tissue. Once decay invades the pulp tissues it causes an infection, squeezing the blood vessels until they can’t nourish the pulp and causing it to die. As the infection reaches the tooth root and creates an inflamed pocket, it’s now a potentially life-threatening abscess if it spreads through your bloodstream to other organs in the body.

At this point, you will need a root canal to stop the infection and save the tooth. This allows our dentist to remove the infected tissues inside the tooth, clean it thoroughly, and fill it with a medicated substance. To complete the restoration, our dentist may cap the tooth with a dental crown.

To avoid tooth decay and cavity formation, brush twice a day and floss at least once, avoid refined sugary foods, and keep all of your routine dental cleanings. If you have a painful tooth or swelling in the oral tissues, please give our team a call today at 773-830-3816. At American Dental Associates in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Sharma and our team look forward to helping you with your oral care!