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Dr. Hegland
Dr. Hegland, Dentist
Category: Dental
Satisfied Customers: 322
Experience:  Dentist at Dental Care on Demand
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I have developed an infection in one of my molars which

Customer Question

I have developed an infection in one of my molars which clindamycin stops the pain. The dentist I went to said that is only temporary and an infection on a tooth root can't be cured and I have to have a root canal. My question is is it true that a tooth infection can't be cured without a root canal? thanks barry
JA: Have you noticed any swelling in the gums? When was your last visit to the dentist?
Customer: There was no swelling of the gums only pain in the tooth especially when trying to bite before the clindamycin. that dentist prescribed the drug. I went to the dentist yesterday.
JA: Please give me a bit more information, so the dentist can help you best.
Customer: Like what information? All this started after a very severe tooth cleaning about a month ago.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Dental
Expert:  Dr. Hegland replied 6 months ago.

Your dentist is correct, the antibiotic is really only to help keep the infection from spreading in addition to helping get bacterial count down around the tooth/and that will help some with the pain. A root canal is needed when a tooth does a couple things, the nerve/pulp area inside the tooth was injured or diseased (variety of conditions can cause IRP) and the nerve is irreversibly affected and the other is the nerve has simply died on the inside of the tooth (again could die from a variety of reasons). When the tooth is diagnosed as one of these things (irreversible pulpitis or necrotic) then a root canal must be completed in order to removed the diseased or dying tissue (nerve, blood vessel, bacteria) from the inside of the tooth. When taking an antibiotic it certainly helps the tissue around the tooth stabilized from the internal infection, but the antibiotic has no way to get inside the tooth to stop or reduce the bacteria taking over. The only in and out, is the apex of the tooth for these nerve and blood vessel components and if nerve is already dying or dead, they blood vessels aren't functioning to go into the tooth. So scientifically its a lot more than this brief generalization from hopefully it helps you understand why antibiotic won't fix a tooth in the long run when it needs a root canal. Antibiotics can resolve gum tissue issues that arise from periodontal infections because antibiotics can systemically get to those areas. If a root canal wasn't a treatment option you want to proceed with the other route would be just to remove the tooth.

Expert:  Dr. Hegland replied 6 months ago.

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