Cavities form within a tooth when bacteria soften and erode the hard dentin layer. Deep cavities can permeate the tooth and interfere with the health of the pulp, which is an organic material made of tissues, blood cells, and nerves that fill the root canal in the tooth's center. Cavity and pulp damage can lead to a dental infection, which threatens the life of the tooth.
A dental infection can also spread into the surrounding gum tissue and form a periapical abscess. An abscess is a pus-filled sac that can eventually wear through your jawbone and form a tunnel into your sinus or bloodstream.
Deep cavities and periapical abscesses are both extremely treatable if you visit your dentist's office before symptoms worsen too far. What can your dentist do to help?
Periapical Abscess: Lancing and Antibiotics
Your dentist can clear up the periapical abscess by first lancing the sac to drain the pus. The gums are then cleaned thoroughly and washed with an antibacterial solution.
If the abscess has already started to eat through your jawbone, your dentist might want to perform a bone graft once the infected tooth has been treated. A bone graft uses a small segment of bone from elsewhere in your mouth to fill in the gap created by the abscess.
Has the infection already moved from the abscess to your sinus or another part of your body? Your dentist might prescribe antibiotics to clear up the problem before it can spread any further.
Cavity Treatment: Root Canal Procedure
A deep cavity with a concurrent infection requires root canal therapy. During a root canal procedure, the dentist will drill into the tooth and scrape out all of the infected pulp. The root canal is rinsed clean then filled with dental cement. The tooth is then sealed shut with an artificial crown that goes over the exterior of your natural tooth to form a new layer of protection.
The presence of the abscess indicates that the infection has moved into the roots of the tooth to go out into the gums. Your dentist might want to follow the standard root canal procedure with an apicoectomy procedure, which involves snipping off and sealing the ends or apexes of the roots so that the infection can't travel that route again.
Cavity Treatment: Dental Extraction
Your dentist might decide to extract the tooth if the problem was long-standing and has already caused the pulp to become necrotic. Leaving the tooth in place risks repeat infections and eventual natural loss of the tooth.
Following the extraction, your dentist might recommend a dental replacement such as a dental implant. If you received a bone graft due to the abscess damage, a dental implant is a particularly good choice because the jawbone-implanted metal root stimulates and promotes bone growth. Surface replacements such as dentures or bridges don't offer the same bone promotion benefit. Contact your dentist like Rick Chavez DDS for more information.