WHAT IS ROOT CANAL THERAPY?
Root canal therapy is an endodontic procedure, which means it treats the inside of a tooth. The inside of a tooth contains a pulp chamber and root canals that are full of dental pulp. The pulp chamber is located beneath a hard layer called dentin in the middle of the tooth. The dental pulp is made up of nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and specialized cells that help your teeth develop. Root canals connect that pulp to the nerves and blood vessels in the jaw below the tip of the tooth root.
Sometimes, deep dental decay or a fracture of the tooth affects the pulp inside it. When that happens, the pulp becomes inflamed and can even become infected. An infection in the pulp can spread out further to affect the surrounding nerves, bone, and even other teeth. You can’t “cure” infected pulp by brushing or flossing. Even a filling won’t fix it. In other cases, the pulp becomes inflamed and sensitive and tries to swell, just like when you bump your shin and get a lump there. The problem is that the pulp is in a confined space inside the hard tooth and can’t swell up. Instead, the inflammation squeezes the pulp, causing permanent damage to it.
The only way to reliably treat pulp infection and permanent pulp damage due to inflammation is by doing root canal therapy. Root canal therapy treats the affected tooth by removing its pulp entirely and filling the space with a rubbery filling material.
How is a root canal performed?
A root canal is usually performed by an endodontist (a specialist who cares for the inside of teeth).
The following are the steps of a root canal procedure:
The endodontist prepares for the procedure by examining and X-raying the tooth. Next, the dentist gives a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and places a protective covering (rubber dam) in the person’s mouth to isolate the damaged tooth and protect the rest of the mouth.
The endodontist makes an opening in the top of the tooth to access the delicate structures inside. The dentist then removes the pulp from the chamber and root canals using very small instruments.
The dentist then cleans and shapes the root canals to make space for the filling, and possibly, a post to support the tooth.
The endodontist fills the root canals with a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha and then places an adhesive on top of the gutta-percha to seal it within the tooth.
The endodontist will then put a temporary filling on top of the tooth to protect the inside of the tooth while it is healing.
A person who has undergone root canal treatment will need to revisit the dentist to have the temporary filling removed. At this stage, the dentist will either put in a permanent crown or will carry out other permanent restoration on the tooth.
Once the root canal is complete, the tooth should be back to full functioning and should not cause any more pain.