A root canal refers to the dental procedure that involves cleaning out the decay within your tooth’s root and pulp.
The pulp is made up of connective tissue, nerves, blood vessels, and other cells. All these help the tooth thrive.
A healthy tooth consists of roots and a crown; the latter is usually above the gum while the roots are below the gum.
The roots attach your tooth to the jawbone. The pulp provides nourishment for the tooth and moisture to the surrounding material.
The nerves within the pulp quickly sense cold and hot temperatures as intense pain. But another source of pain is root canal infection.
When there is a deep cavity in your tooth, or it has a crack, bacteria can easily enter the pulp. If it is left untreated, decaying material and bacteria can cause a tooth abscess or severe infection.
This can give rise to a dental emergency if bacteria reaches a tooth’s inner pulp, thereby causing severe pain.
When the dental pulp becomes infected, the infection spreads rapidly. It can spread to your jawbone and the surrounding teeth unless it is removed.
And unfortunately, there is no other way to treat pulp infection than to remove the decayed pulp from within the root canals and pulp chamber.
Symptoms and signs include:
If you suspect that you have a problem that might require a root canal, the first thing to do is get yourself to a dentist or endodontist.
After the diagnosis confirms the presence of pulp infection, the endodontist performs dental X-rays to determine the extent of the damage.
If you are in severe pain due to the abscessed tooth, you may receive local anesthesia to control the pain.
The dentist inserts a dental dam, a rubber-like sheet, in your mouth to keep the infected tooth clean. It also helps to keep the area free of saliva and protects it efficiently.
Decay is effectively removed while an opening is created via the crown of the tooth. This is done to gain direct access to the pulp chamber.
The endodontist then uses small dental instruments to get rid of the diseased or infected pulp swiftly.
After removing the diseased pulp, the endodontist flushes and cleans the root canal and the pulp chamber with a microbial solution.
The tooth doctor may decide to enlarge and reshape the root canal. This will give much better access for filling later.
Before filling the root canal permanently, the dental practitioner will ensure that it is clean with zero infection.
And it must also be very dry. Therefore, the dentist may apply some medication to the root canal and pulp chamber to eliminate any infection.
The tooth is then left open for several days to drain. However, if a bacterial infection has spread far beyond the tooth, you may need to get prescribed antibiotics.
By now, you have a hole in your tooth which leads to the root canal and an empty pulp chamber. The dentist will replace the infected dental pulp by filling the canal and chamber with gutta-percha, a rubber-like material.
The dentist may also insert a tiny post inside, and both will provide the needed internal support to the tooth, thereby preventing the tooth from collapsing in on itself.
Do not chew or bite on the tooth until it has been ideally treated and restored.
The last step in the treatment is to seal the tooth using dental cement and then position a dental crown over the affected tooth.
This minimizes the likelihood of bacteria re-accessing or re-entering the tooth. Dental crowns also provide structural support as well as additional protection from damage.
It is assumed that you now have a much better understanding of what a root canal is and how the treatment is performed.
The next time your tooth hurts and your dentist tells you that you may need a root canal treatment, you will no longer be in the dark.
Knowing what a root canal is and how it is carried out will help prepare your mind as the day of the procedure approaches.