What is a root canal?
A root canal is the space within a tooth that houses what is often referred to as the “nerve” of the tooth. Depending on its location, a tooth can have one or more root canals. Root canals run from the tip of the tooth root to the pulp chamber, which is the soft center of the tooth that contains connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels that nourish the tooth and transmit pain signals.
When is a root canal treatment necessary?
When the tooth pulp becomes exposed due to a fracture, breakage, or decay, bacteria and debris can enter this space and cause inflammation and infection of the tooth nerves. Unlike with infections in other areas of the body, an infected tooth cannot heal itself. Its degenerated blood, lymph, and nerve tissue cannot transport white blood cells to help fight the infection. A root canal treatment, which consists of removing the infected tissues in the root canals and pulp chamber, is necessary to clear up the infection. Without treatment, the infection could spread to the jawbone and beyond, resulting in tooth loss and widespread bodily infection.
Does a root canal procedure hurt?
While root canal treatments have a bad reputation for being painful, they are no more uncomfortable than any other dental procedure. Many patients only need the help of a local anesthetic to undergo this procedure comfortably, but we also offer nitrous oxide and oral sedation to help nervous patients relax.
How is a root canal treatment performed?
After ensuring that you are comfortable with local anesthesia and possibly sedation, your dentist will create an opening to gain access to the pulp chamber. The next step is removing the infected tissue from the pulp chamber and root canals, then sculpting the sides of the canals. Shaping the canals ensures that they can be filled and sealed off properly. Your root canals will then be sealed with a rubber material called gutta percha, and a filling will be placed on top of that to close the opening in the tooth. Depending on how much tooth structure has been removed, your dentist may also recommend placement of a crown at a later date to help strengthen the tooth structure.
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