Has your dentist told you that you need a root canal? If so, you are not the only one. Each year, millions of teeth are treated and saved by root canal treatment.
But what does that mean? Why would you need a root canal? What does it involve?
To better understand a root canal, it is good to know a little about the anatomy of a tooth. There are many layers to teeth: the outer, white enamel layer; the hard dentin layer; and the soft tissue, or pulp. This pulp contains nerves and connective tissue and blood vessels, and it helps your teeth grow during the development stages. When your teeth are fully developed, they can survive without the pulp because they continue to be nourished by the tissues surrounding them.
A root canal, or Endodontic treatment, will treat the inside of a tooth. It is necessary when the pulp, or inside of the tooth, becomes infected. Inflammation or infection can be caused by a variety of reasons: a chip or crack in the tooth, deep decay, faulty crowns, repeated dental treatment on the tooth, or even trauma. Trauma to the tooth can cause damage even if there are no visible chips or cracks. If the inflammation or infection of the pulp is left untreated, it can cause an abscess.
During a root canal, the infected pulp is removed, and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned, filled, and then sealed with a rubbery material called Gutta-percha. Afterwards, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection. After the restoration is complete, the tooth will continue to function as it did before.
Contrary to what you might hear, modern root canal treatment is very similar to having a filling and usually is completed within one or two appointments. Endodontic treatment can help you maintain your natural smile. After your root canal, you can expect to continue chewing, eating, and biting as you would normally.
All dentists receive training in endodontic, or root canal, treatment in dental school. Many are very experienced and highly trained to do such procedures. However, in the event that your dentist refers you out to a specialist, don't worry. This is because your dentist feels it would be in your better interest to have the Endodontist do your root canal. This might be because you have extra roots that the dentist does not have the tools to see, your infection may be very advanced, or you may have certain circumstances that require a specialist. Your dentist, as a healthcare provider, just wants to make sure you have the best success rate for any treatment you have. Sometimes, this requires a specialist.
Just like any surgery, you will need time to heal. Sometimes this can be uncomfortable; however, time will make the pain go away. If you experience severe or prolonged pain for any amount of time, additional treatment may be necessary. In any case, if you have any questions, please contact your dental provider.