Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do I need a second opinion about having a root canal?"
Should I get a second dentist to determine whether I really need root canals?
Cavities form in your teeth when bacteria erode through the outer layer of enamel on the tooth. At the center of your tooth there is nerve tissue which is responsible for the sensation in your teeth. When cavities are deep enough to expose this nerve tissue, there is a risk of infection of the nerve tissue or "pulpitis." Pulpitis is very painful, because it is the nerve root that is infected, and is one of the major reasons for emergent presentation to the dentist's office. Treatment for simple cavities involves drilling the cavity and filling in the pit, commonly referred to as a "filling." Treatment for cavities which have become deep enough to involve the nerve root, or for infection of the nerve root which has spread from below the tooth, require a root canal. A root canal involves drilling a hole in the tooth to allow infectious fluid to drain out, as well as removing the "pulp" or nerve root within the center of the tooth. If pulpitis goes untreated, there is a risk of eruption of the infection through the tooth, destroying the tooth itself, as well as spread of the infection to surrounding tissues or the deep tissues of the neck. You should certainly pursue a second opinion if you feel uncertain of the diagnosis or recommended therapy, but if you have been told you need a root canal, you should seek this second opinion as soon as possible due to the risk of pulpitis in an exposed nerve root.
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