When infection damages the nerves inside the teeth, the symptoms are easy to notice and often painful. But that's a good thing, because untreated nerve damage can lead to severe pain and even tooth loss. Dental surgeons can fix the problem before it becomes serious, so knowing when you have nerve damage can help you avoid its complications.
How Nerve Damage Happens
Nerve damage in the teeth happens two ways: Through physical irritation and trauma. According to the University of Virginia Health System, physical irritation includes tooth decay (cavities) wearing the tooth away down to the nerve. This allows bacteria to reach the nerve, which in turn leads to infection and decay.
Damage from trauma occurs when a blow to the tooth or jaw injures sensitive nerve tissue.
According to the University of Virginia Health System, symptoms of nerve damage include pain while biting or chewing food. If the nerve is exposed through decay, the tooth will be especially sensitive to hot and cold drinks. Also, nerve damage in the teeth can cause facial swelling. If decay is causing the damage, there may also be pus around the infected tooth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Health professionals recommend seeing a dentist right away if you suspect you have tooth decay or nerve damage. If an infection in the pulp of the teeth (the tissue that contains nerves) goes untreated for too long, the infection can spread to the bones that hold teeth in place. This can cause tooth loss.
Dentists often recommend a root canal to repair nerve damage to the teeth. In a root canal, the surgeon opens the top of the tooth (the crown), removes the infected tissue and flushes out the inside of the tooth. Root canal therapy often is spread out over two or three visits, so the doctor can be sure all the infected tissue is gone.
After A Root Canal
People who have had a root canal may find that their teeth have become brittle. According to the University of Virginia Health Systems, this is because a tooth without pulp is more susceptible to breaking and chipping.
Root canal may also cause discoloration. According to the University of Virginia Health System, this will not damage the tooth's health and can be treated with bleaching.