What is a Root Canal?

I Need a Root Canal?!?

If you’ve been told that a root canal is in your future, fear not.  Take solace in knowing that you are not alone.  Millions of teeth are treated and saved each year with root canal treatment.  Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort involved; it generally involves one or two visits to your dentist’s office.  Best of all, the procedure can save your tooth and your smile.

To best understand a root canal procedure, it helps to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the tooth.  Inside your tooth, under the white enamel and dentin (another hard layer), is a soft tissue called the pulp.  The pulp is home to blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue; it helps to grow the root of your tooth during development.  A fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth itself will continue to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.

Root canals have been unfairly used as a way to scare patients away from good oral care. If the dentist says you need one, they are simply trying to save a tooth.

Root canals have been unfairly used as a way to scare patients away from good oral care. If the dentist says you need one, they are simply trying to save a tooth.

A root canal treats the inside of the tooth and is necessary when the nerve of the tooth becomes infected or the pulp becomes inflamed or damaged.  The inflammation or infection can stem from a variety of causes: decay, repeated dental procedures on the same tooth, faulty crowns, and/or a crack or chip in the tooth.  In addition, trauma to a tooth may also cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks.  If the inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause severe pain and/or lead to an abscessed tooth (a pus-filled pocket that occurs at the end of the roots of the tooth).

During the actual root canal procedure itself, the inflamed or damaged pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned thoroughly before being disinfected.  The tooth is then filled and sealed.  Afterwards, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for additional protection.  After the entire process is completed, the tooth continues to function much like any other tooth in your mouth.

This process helps you maintain your natural smile, allows you to continue eating the foods you love, and limits the need for ongoing dental work.  With proper care, most teeth that have undergone a root canal can last as long as the other natural teeth in your mouth.  Root canal procedures have the reputation of being painful.  Most patients report that the procedure itself isn’t anymore painful than getting a filling.  The actual discomfort comes during the period before the individual decides to call the dentist.  So what are you waiting for?  Call to make your appointment today!

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