What is a Root Canal?

To know about a root canal we have to understand the basic structure of the tooth.

The portion of the tooth seen in the oral cavity is called the crown of the tooth and portion which is anchored within the jaw bone is called the root. Depending on the size location and function a tooth may have one or more roots. The tooth has this inner core of soft tissue called pulp. The pulp comprises of all the nerves and blood vessels, which keep the tooth alive. In the crown, the pulp is present within a chamber called pulp chamber and it extends into the root via a narrow tapering canal called root canal. The blood vessels and nerves, which travel through this canal, leave the tooth through a small opening present in the lower end of the tooth ultimately joining with the other major blood vessels and nerves running within the jawbone.

How does the pulp get infected?

Sometimes the pulp inside your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. This can be caused by deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, a crack or chip in the tooth, or a blow to the tooth .The most common cause is tooth decay.

What happens when a pulp gets infected?

Tooth decay if left untreated spreads into the substance of the tooth ultimately infecting the pulp. Once the pulp becomes infected with more bacteria than it can handle, it begins to degenerate. As with any infection there is formation of pus, which tends to get accumulated at the tip of the roots within the jawbone, forming a "pus-pocket" called an abscess. This abscess not only causes pain and swelling but also affects the jawbone. 

   What is a root canal treatment?

Root canal is the treatment in which the infected pulp is removed from the tooth and the space occupied by it is cleaned and filled with a special filling material. Even though the pulp has been removed from the inside of the tooth, the tooth is still embedded in a living jaw structure. The root canal tooth will not feel hot or cold. However the tooth would still retain normal sensation to touch or pressure.

Why is a root canal treatment done?

For years, teeth with diseased or injured pulps were removed to prevent or to treat the consequences mentioned above. Today, root canal treatment has given dentists a safe way to save teeth. Based on the results obtained so far it is safe to say that more than 90% of endodontic cases respond to root canal treatment. If carried out.

How is the root canal treatment done?

Contrary to popular belief root canal treatment is not painful .It is carried out under local anesthesia which makes the tooth numb. Only after the dentist has confirmed that the patient has no pain will he /she begin the treatment. The duration of the treatment depends on the amount of infection present. The treatment can be completed in a single appointment or may require more than three appointments.

Root canal treatment has three steps:

1. Access opening:
                                   This is the first step where an opening is created in order to reach the infected pulp area using a dental drill. After the access is gained, the infected contents of the pulp chamber are carefully removed using special instruments. An anterior tooth has only root where as a posterior tooth may have more than three roots. There fore it is necessary to remove the infected pulp from all the root canals present in a single tooth.

2. Biomechanical preparation:
                                                            In this step the hollow space which once contained the infected pulp is cleaned and shaped. Cleaning is usually done with the help of saline water and thin dental files. These files are moved along the surface of the root canal making it large and smooth. This procedure not only removes traces of bacteria from the root canal, but also makes the root canal more receptive to the filling that is to follow.

3. Obturation:
                             Once the canals have been cleaned with the files, the canals are filled with a special filling material. The purpose of this filling material is to seal the canals and prevent future infections inside the tooth.

If a tooth’s which contains nerves and blood vessels, becomes infected or damaged because of deep decay or an injury, root-canal treatment may be the only way to save the tooth. The procedure cleans out the pulp chamber and repairs the damage.

Visits needed: One to three, depending on the condition of the pulp. If the tooth is abscessed (meaning the pulp has died and the infection has entered the bone anchoring the tooth), the infection may have to drain before the empty root can be filled.

Durability: The material used to fill the root canal will probably last the rest of your life. But you may eventually need to have the filling or crown replaced. 

  • During your first visit, the dentist removes the decay and a small amount of enamel (slightly more than the thickness of a dime) from the surface of the affected tooth. He or she then shapes the tooth into a base for the crown to fit over. An impression is made of the tooth so that the crown will be exact fit. A temporary crown is then put on.
  • After the affected tooth has been numbed, the dentist makes an opening in the top of the tooth to reach the pulp chamber. The pulp is then removed and the chamber and root(s) are rinsed out.
  • On your return visit, the permanent crown is cemented on the tooth. This visit generally takes just a few minutes and may not require anesthetic.
  • Once the pulp chamber and root canal system are clean and free of infection, these areas are filled with a rubberlike material. Finally, the tooth is crowned or filled (shown) to seal the opening to the pulp chamber.

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