Root canal. The very words can invoke fear in people and spur them to flee to the hills, far away from any dentist office. But root canals are not as bad as their frightening reputation would lead us to believe.
For a quick refresher, “endo” is Greek for “inside” and “odont” means “tooth.” Put them together and endodontic treatment is the process of treating the inside of the tooth. Root canals are a type of endodontic treatment. A quick look at a tooth’s anatomy can help further understand how root canals work.
The anatomy of a tooth
Underneath the white enamel and hard layer of dentin on our teeth is soft tissue pulp. This pulp is full of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that combine to create harder surrounding tissue of a tooth as it develops.
Pulp is critical as a tooth grows and develops. The pulp extends all the way from the tooth’s crown to the root tips, connecting there with surrounding tissue. After a tooth emerges through the gum and fully matures, it doesn’t need the pulp for continued health and function as the surrounding tissue provides nourishment. In fact, tooth nerves at this point only offer sensory services in detecting hot and cold.
A root’s canals, in turn, start at the tip of a tooth root and reach into the pulp chamber. This is a very strong and efficient system but a tooth weakens somewhat and becomes more susceptible to fracture after a root canal procedure.
When is root canal treatment necessary?
If the pulp inside a root’s canal becomes infected or inflamed, it must be treated to repair the immediate problem and avert further, more severe issues. Reasons leading to root canal treatment include:
- A deeply decayed tooth
- Repeated dental procedures on the same tooth
- A faulty crown placement or damaged crown
- Cracks or chips in the tooth
- An injured tooth causing pulp damage
Clinical reasons for root canal treatment are many, including infection from inflamed pulp leading to abscess; however, there are also many other reasons to try to save your natural teeth. Proper endodontic treatment lets you continue eating your favorite foods, keep your glowing smile, maintain an overall healthy oral aura, and drastically reduce the need for continued dental work. In fact, teeth treated with root canals typically last a lifetime and that is peace of mind, indeed.
Does damaged pulp need to be removed?
The short answer is yes. Damaged pulp breaks down and when that happens, bacteria starts multiplying inside the pulp chamber and along with deteriorating pulp remnants, can cause infection, plenty of pain, and abscessed teeth.
On top of that, an infected root canal can induce swelling that can spread to your neck, head, and other areas of the face. Drainage issues can also develop from the root, starting with a hole forming in the side of the tooth, causing liquid to drain into the gums or even through the cheek and into surrounding skin. Severe root canal infections can also lead to bone loss near the root’s tip.
Fortunately, root canal treatment is highly effective at resolving unfavorable scenarios like these.
What is a root canal?
It sounds complicated but root canal treatment is relatively straightforward. Inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is then thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and then filled and sealed.
The treatment removes bacteria from the root’s canal, prevents future infection, and greatly increases chances of saving your natural teeth instead of replacing with artificial.
Common signs that root canal treatment is in your future
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is a good idea to visit your dentist for a consultation and potentially schedule treatment.
- Severe pain on or around a tooth when chewing or applying pressure
- Discolored tooth (typically a darker color)
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures after a hot or cold item (beverages, for example) has been removed
- Pimples forming on the gums
- Swelling or tender gums
Other times, oral issues sneak up on you with no symptoms at all, until the problem is well established.
In all cases, be vigilant with oral care and get regular checkups.
For more information on root canal procedures, contact Beach City Dental at (714) 406-1691 or beachcitydental.com.