How Does A Root Canal Save a Tooth?

Posted on: September 2, 2015

Root CanalsA “root canals dentist” is a commonly used term for an endodontist, a specialist who treats the inside of the tooth as opposed to the visible outer part.

The tooth is essentially made up of three parts. The enamel is the white outer layer of the crown. Being extremely hard and nonporous, tooth enamel can withstand a great deal of stress and thus protect the dentin, which is the tough porous layer of tissue that makes up the bulk of the tooth. Dentin is softer than the enamel but harder than bone. The pulp is the softer inner structure of teeth that contains blood vessels, nerve tissue, and cells that can both nourish the tooth and repair the dentin. This pulp is what a root canal dentist focuses on.

If the dental pulp gets infected or inflamed, and the blood supply is cut off, the pulp can gradually die. Then, the bacteria find a safe place to ‘hide’ in the hollow tooth, which means that both the body’s natural immune defenses and antibiotics that would normally combat the infection are largely ineffective. Infected pulp can cause significant pain. What is worse is that, without proper dental care, a relatively mild infection can rapidly progress into a serious abscess, or it can spread to surrounding tissue, including the bones in your jaw.

How Dental Pulp Becomes Infected

There are several ways dental pulp can get infected.

a) Untreated Cavities: The pulp is usually well-protected. However, a deep cavity in the tooth exposes the pulp to bacteria. The acid by-product of the bacteria is strong enough to eat through both the enamel and the dentin. If the cavity is not treated, it will eventually reach the pulp.

b) Trauma: Although there may be no visible evidence of injury, trauma to a tooth can also expose the pulp to harmful bacteria that will infect and damage it.

c) Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Some studies seem to indicate that moderate to advanced periodontal disease can affect the dental pulp. If the gums are infected with harmful bacteria, they can eventually cause the pulp to become infected, which causes extreme pain.

A root canal is often the only way to preserve a natural tooth and remove the infected pulp at the same time. While there is little question that modern technology has made great advances in dentistry, there is no perfect substitute for our natural teeth. Because root canal dentists make every effort to save these natural teeth, root canals are among the most common of all dental procedures. Root canal therapy is considerably less expensive and much faster than implants, which can take several weeks to complete.

Although a root canal tends to scare patients immeasurably, it is not the dreaded procedure it is often feared to be. Modern root canals are usually no different from routine fillings, except that they take a little more time to complete.

After removing the pulp, your root canal dentist will carefully clean and disinfect the inside of the now empty space before filling the area with a tough, natural, rubberlike resin called gutta-percha. Depending on what is needed, the tooth will be restored with either a permanent filling or a crown.

However, the success and longevity of a root canal can depend on whether or not the infection spread into the bone. In other words, the earlier the tooth is treated, the more positive the outcome. So, if a particular tooth is discolored or darkened, if you have severe pain or even some swelling and tenderness, or if hot or cold food or drink causes pain that does not recede for a long time, you should consult a root canal dentist as soon as possible.


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