A lateral incisor, located just to the rear of the two front teeth, helps with the food grabbing process so an infection here can cause pain any time you bite down. A lateral incisor with a severe infection can cause frequent discomfort and threaten to cause widespread damage or even tooth death.

Your general of family dentistry office has a couple of different treatment options for a lateral incisor with a severe infection. The best treatment depends on whether the current infection is the first infection or a recurrent infection after treatment was already provided to the tooth.

Initial Infection: Root Canal Therapy and Dental Crown 

A newly infected tooth will receive the fairly standard treatment of root canal therapy and a follow-up dental crown that closes the hole created in the tooth during the therapy.

Root canal therapy aims to remove all of the infected pulp material that travels through the tooth's root canal from the tooth roots to the upper chamber. The dentist will need to drill an access hole into the top of the tooth in order to slide a narrow tool down into the canal to scrape out all of that infected pulp. The now empty canal receives an antibacterial rinse then an expanding foam that will hold the canal empty until the infection has time to clear completely and then dissolves and allows healthy pulp to reenter the canal.

The dentist will complete the treatment by using a dental crown to cover the access hole drilled into the top of the tooth.

Repeated Infection: Apicoectomy

A tooth that received root canal therapy can sometimes become infected again shortly after treatment. The repeated infection usually means that some infected pulp got caught in the bottommost part of the canal system – the root tips that stick down into the soft tissue and bone. The root canal therapy doesn't scrape that low into the system so trapped material can remain trapped and allow the infection to start up again.

The dentist can finish the pulp cleansing using a technique called apicoectomy. An apicoectomy requires the dentist to cut through the soft tissue and some bone to access the root tips, which are also called the apexes. The tips and the contained materials are trimmed off and the remaining roots are closed with the same bio-foam used to hold the canal temporarily closed in the root canal process.

When the foam dissolves and allows healthy pulp to enter the canal, the infection should be completely eliminated from the tooth.