What started out as a sensitive tooth has now developed into a sharp, throbbing ache in your molar. Your dentist says you need a root canal. But what exactly is a root canal, and why does your dentist recommend the procedure?
All About A Root Canal
What is Endodontics?
Endodontics is the study of diagnosing and treating conditions related to the pulp inside of teeth. Dental pulp is a mass of connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves that lies at the center of the tooth. It is covered by hard layers of enamel and dentin. Dental pulp performs several important functions.
- Senses pain, temperature, and pressure
- Creates the layer of dentin that forms the bulk of the tooth
- Nourishes and moisturizes the tooth
A root canal is the removal of damaged dental pulp. All dentists are trained in the basics of endodontics. If your dentist recommends the procedure, they will likely be the one to perform it. In rare cases, you may be referred to a specialist for more advanced procedures.
Why Is A Root Canal Needed?
Toothaches and cavities can be treated by removing the decayed tissue and filling the hole with an amalgam filling. But sometimes the severity of the damage requires a more drastic approach. When a dental professional assesses a patient, they look for certain symptoms that indicate a root canal may be needed.
- Sensitivity to heat, but not cold
- Pain that presents when the tooth is not in use
- Headaches caused by tooth pain
- Abscessed or infected dental tissues
- Cavities and fractures that breach the dentin layer and expose nerve endings
- Damage to the root that leads to the tooth’s death
- Root resorption, a condition that causes the entire tooth structure to dissolve
- Repeated dental procedures that stress enamel and tooth position
How is a Root Canal Done?
Your dental professional will start by numbing the area around the tooth. A rubber or latex sheet is placed in the mouth around the tooth. This is to protect the surrounding teeth, as well as create an environment that is easy to keep clear of blood, saliva, and bacteria during the procedure. The dentist will punch a hole in the sheet to expose the affected tooth, and a metal clamp is used to hold the sheet in place.
Once preparations are complete, the dentist will create an access cavity by drilling through the layers of dentin and enamel. Any decayed or damaged tissue is removed during this step. The tooth is measured using an x-ray or other electronic methods. This is to ensure the dentist treats the entire root structure. The interior of the tooth is cleared of all nerve tissue, bacteria, and debris. The tooth is hollowed out from the inside using small files.
The tooth is filled with a rubber compound, and the access cavity is sealed with a temporary filling. Additional procedures, such as a permanent filling or dental crown, may be necessary after the root canal is complete.
Root canals are routine and safe procedures that correct painful damage to your teeth. If you have questions, your dental professional will be happy to answer them before your procedure.