Endodontics (Root Canals)
There’s more to the teeth than what’s on the surface, and Endodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the study and treatment of the structures and tissues inside your teeth. Root canal therapy is perhaps the most common endodontic treatment.
A root canal is used to alleviate the pain caused by bacterial infections in the pulp of the tooth. Not only does this procedure stop the pain, it also removes any dead and dying tissue which effectively also removes the infection. This procedure can help save a tooth which is at risk of being lost if the infection goes untreated.
In addition to root canal therapy, other endodontic procedures include dealing with many types dental trauma, such as a tooth fracture or other type of injury. Endodontists also perform microsurgery on the tips of the tooth roots. In addition, they help locate the source of tooth pain, particularly when it is intermittent or not localized to just one tooth. Preserving your natural teeth is the main goal of your endodontist.
Under The Enamel
Your tooth has several parts, and it can be helpful to understand a bit about each part. At the surface you have the enamel which is the shiny visible part of the tooth. Underneath the enamel is the dentin and this porous substance, which is similar to bone tissue, forms a protective layer around the roots of the tooth.
Beneath the dentin, there is a space filled with pulp tissue and within this soft tissue you will find nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues which run from this space down through the root canals. When an infection enters this pulp tissue, you might begin to notice that the tooth is much more sensitive or perhaps you might feel intense pain. The infection eventually will kill the nerves and this might cause the pain to subside. However, if left untreated, the entire tooth might decay and extraction might be the only option.
What Causes Root Canal Problems?
You might be wondering how these infections are caused and one common source of infection is tooth decay that has been left untreated. As the enamel and dentin decay, this allows bacteria from the tooth surface to reach the pulp tissue. If a tooth becomes cracked or fractured, this also can allow bacteria deep into the tooth.
Dental trauma also can lead to infection. Often a sports injury or perhaps an accident will damage the pulp or dentin which can then expose it to infection. A tooth that has undergone many dental procedures such as many restoration procedures or multiple filings can be at risk of infection. While it’s rare, routine orthodontic procedures can even cause root canal problems.
The Process of Endodontic Treatment
Many people fear getting a root canal, but not only does it remove a serious infection, it also eliminates the pain associated with this infection. People worry about the pain involved with root canal work, but typically it is no more uncomfortable than having a filing.
Your endodontist begins by providing anesthesia to the affected area, typically with a numbing shot. For most patients, this is the only uncomfortable moment of the procedure.
After your tooth and gum area are numbed, the dentist will create a small opening in the tooth to provide access to the pulp chamber and your root canals. From there, tiny instruments are used to remove all of the dying and dead tissue from the chamber and canals. Then this area is cleaned thoroughly and disinfected. Finally, this pulp chamber and canals are filled with a safe, inert material. A tooth-colored filling is added on top of the root canal filing to secure the area and close up the opening.
For some patients, additional endodontic treatments might be recommended to remove additional sources of infection and prevent problems in the future. Additionally, it is sometimes necessary to have some type of restoration, such as a crown, fitted on the tooth. This will not only restore the appearance of the tooth, it also restores the tooth to full function. With proper dental care, your tooth should remain healthy for many years to come.