The words “root canal” often inspire terror in most people. And up until a few years ago, with good reason. Thankfully, over the course of time, the technologies and medications have updated so vastly that a root canal is now on par with a normal filling as far as discomfort goes. Usually completed in one to two procedures, root canals are fairly routine.
Why do I need a root canal?
Root canals can be required in a variety of cases.
- An untended cavity
- Trauma to the tooth
- An improper filling
- An infection or abscess
Knowing what a tooth is made of can help to understand why one may be necessary. The outer surface of your tooth is referred to as enamel. Deep inside the tooth there is pulp which contains blood vessels, tissue, and nerves. As adult teeth come in, the pulp is essential in helping the teeth grow and harden. Fully grown, they do not require pulp to nourish themselves, as they get everything they need from the tissue surrounding the root. The pulp is still there though, and when you get need a root canal, the pulp has become infected or inflamed. Trauma to the tooth, decay, repeated procedures, or a chip in the tooth can allow bacteria to get into the tooth and infect the pulp. When the pulp is infected,it is usually very painful and should be handled fairly quickly to prevent the spread of the infection within the bone surrounding the root (abscess).
What is a root canal?
To put it simply, a root canal is the removal of the damaged pulp. The decay is cleared away and the inside of the tooth is disinfected and cleaned out to remove any trace of infection. Then the root is sealed with a substance called gutta-percha. This protects the root and allows it to heal. Following the root canal, the tooth is made intact with a crown or filling. And that’s it!