On the surface, the whole idea of a root canal sounds quite daunting. However, with a good understanding of the process and the procedure, it’s much easier to see why this is a relevant, and often necessary treatment. If your dentist, or endodontist, has already advised you that you require a root canal, you’re just one of many millions of dental patients whose teeth have been saved with this kind of treatment.
Understanding root canal starts with an understanding of the structure of the tooth. Inside each tooth, underneath the white enamel, and below a layer known as dentin, there is a soft tissue known as the pulp. The pulp contains tissue, nerves, and blood vessels, and helps the root of a tooth grow during the development stages. Without getting too technical, a fully developed tooth can actually survive without the pulp.
Unlike general dentistry, endodontic treatment treats the very inside of a tooth. This is particularly necessary when the pulp gets inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including: a cracked or chipped tooth; serious tooth decay; even ongoing dental procedures on the tooth. In some cases, tooth trauma could cause damage to the pulp, even without a crack or chip.
The whole idea behind a root canal is to save the tooth. Although patient’s fears are understandable, a modern dental office with specialized equipment and highly trained staff, can perform the treatment in much the same way as a regular filling. It can all be accomplished in the span of a few appointments, depending on the case. However, left untreated, inflammation and/or infection can have serious outcomes.
During the actual root canal procedure, unhealthy pulp is completely removed and the inside portion of the tooth is cleansed and disinfected. The tooth is then re-filled and re-sealed with a rubber-like substance that is specifically formulated for this procedure. Finally, the tooth is repaired with a crown or filling. When finished, the newly restored tooth will function like all other teeth.
Beyond saving the “natural” tooth, and averting any further damage, a root canal has a number of advantages. The repaired tooth will return to its normal biting pattern and it’s regular chewing efficiency, while protecting other teeth from undue wear. In fact, everything can go back to normal in terms of eating, biting and chewing. With continued care, the root canal treatment can often last a lifetime.
In some situations, a general dentist can be called upon for inflammation, infection, or even pulp damage. However, if a root canal is necessary, and then prescribed, the patient is usually referred to an endodontist. And although there are intricacies and complexities involved in the treatment, the procedure can be readily completed in one or two visits, depending on the complexity of the case.
Clearly, the most important thing when it comes to our teeth is prevention. That’s why proper care, routine maintenance, and regular dental visits are key. Preventing tooth damage and deterioration is far preferable to procedures and treatments.