Saving Teeth With Root Canal Therapy

Over 20 million Americans every year save a damaged tooth by undergoing root canal therapy. Yet, despite its popularity, many people cringed at the words "root canal" and place it in preference next to having a colonoscopy or climbing Mount Everest.  Put your fears to rest and grasp the significance of this highly successful treatment by learning more about the anatomy of the tooth, why a root canal may be needed and how this treatment restores and saves teeth.

The Anatomy of a Tooth

In order to really understand what happens during a root canal procedure, you must first have a basic knowledge of the anatomy of a tooth. The first two layers of the two are composed of the hard, outer enamel surface layer and subsequent dentin layer. Beneath these outer protective layers is a chamber of soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp is vital for teeth that are still developing and preparing to emerge from the gums because it holds the connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels that are responsible for nourishing the tooth. However, after a tooth has emerged from the gums, the pulp layer loses its vitality and is merely responsible for the sensation of the tooth.

Reasons for Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is usually the result of an infection or injury to the nerve tissue or pulp. Severe tooth decay, cracks in the tooth and tooth trauma are just a few of examples of what may initiate this damage to the pulp chamber. Overtime, the infection and inflammation fill the entire pulp chamber and lead to severe pain, an abscessed tooth and a spread of the infection into the surrounding bone structures and soft tissue.

The Procedure

Before performing the procedure, your dentist or endodontist will perform a series of test to verify exactly which tooth is causing the problems. These tests include hot and cold sensitivity, pressure sensitivity, X-rays of the tooth, and bone.

Once the problematic tooth is identified, the root canal procedure begins by drilling a small hole in the tooth to remove all the inflamed or infected pulp. Next the inside of the pulp chamber is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to ensure the source of the infection is eliminated. The dentist or endodontist then fills the interior of the tooth with a rubber compound material called gutta-percha. Finally, a filling or crown is placed over the hole that was created in the beginning of the procedure.

Despite the severity of the situation, patients who undergo root canal therapy can expect an experience quite similar to having a filling done and have the problem resolved in one or two visits. Residual pain from the infected tooth and sensitivities from the procedure usually resolve in a few days and can be alleviated with the use of over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen.

Saving Teeth

Because over 95% of the root canal treatments performed are successful, most patients are able to use their treated tooth at its full potential.  In addition, the restoration of normal chewing and biting capabilities for the treated tooth also protects the surrounding teeth from having excessive pressure and wear.  

Talk to a dentist like Van Buskirk & Krischke DDS, LLC for more information.