Misconceptions surrounding the endodontic specialty abound. Few other terms in the English language are so immediately associated with fear and pain like the word ‘root canal’. With the advances in dental techniques, these associations are nothing more than false stereotypes. Understanding root canals and the therapy used to correct disorders and disease will help to disprove these wrongful assumptions.
Root canal misconceptions have been present for many years. The truth is that those who have experienced root canal therapy realize there is little to fear. A recent study by the American Association of Endodontists found that:
“Patients who have experienced root canal therapy are six times more likely to describe it as “painless” than patients who have not had root canal treatment.”
Today’s treatment is more closely related to placing a filling. In fact by treating damaged tissues inside the root canal, the severe toothache most patients experience is actually relieved. This improves the comfort of the patient and the overall health of the tooth and mouth.
The Purpose of the Root Canal
The root canal of the tooth serves to deliver nutrients to the tooth during its development. They do this through a delivery system of nerves and blood vessels, which is known as pulp. The pulp is contained inside of the tooth’s canals, and extends from the crown to the root. This is where it connects to the soft tissues of the mouth through the jaw bone. Although the tooth has one pulp chamber, each tooth can actually contain up to four separate canals that help provide nutrients.
The root canal play an integral role in the early growth of a tooth. After the tooth has developed to the point of maturity, it can maintain health even without its pulp. A mature tooth has the ability to maintain itself through nourishment received from surrounding tissues. This allows for the pulp to be removed when it is damaged or infected.
Reasons for Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy procedures are necessary because of two main issues. The first reasons involve inflammation and infection of the tooth. The second are due to traumatic injury rendering the pulp unable to recover.
Inflammation and infection can damage the tooth’s pulp. This occurs when cavities and tooth decay allow bacteria to breach the enamel and dentin. Once the pulp and soft tissues become infected, antibiotics are ineffective. Inflammation compounds the problem by limiting the fresh blood supply, which could possibly help the pulp to heal.
Accidental trauma to the tooth can also damage the pulp. Many times when chips, cracks or fractures occur, pulp is injured and not capable of recovery. This type of injury can even occur when a tooth has undergone many restoration efforts. Pulp can even be injured with no visible cracks or chips.
Root Canal: Signs of Damaged Pulp
There are dangers associated with leaving damaged or infected pulp untreated. These conditions will lead to sensitivity, pain and even an abscess. These are the signs and symptoms of damage that should get further examination:
- Pain with biting or contact to the tooth
- Hot/Cold sensitivity
- Swelling around the tooth
- Discoloration of the tooth
It is possible to have pulp damage without the presence of pain. If you suspect your tooth is inflamed, injured or infected, you should consult the dentist immediately.
Root Canal Therapy Treatment
Root canal therapy is the process of removing and replacing the pulp of the tooth. After the pulp is removed, the canal then is cleaned and shaped. Medication can be used to ensure the chamber is free from germs and infection. A temporary crown can be used to allow the open tooth a chance to drain any excess fluid. Finally the canals are filled and then sealed, allowing a final crown to be placed. The treatment may take multiple office visits.
Benefits of Root Canal Therapy
When possible, saving natural teeth offer patients the very best options. The treatment is less invasive and costly than other options. Root canal therapy effectively saves an estimated 24 million teeth each year.
Restored teeth can last a lifetime with proper care and regular dental checkups. This type of treatment has an extremely high success rate. As long as the root of a restored tooth remains nourished, it should continue to remain healthy.