Natural teeth are meant to last a lifetime. Even if one of your teeth should become critically injured or diseased, it can often times be saved through a specialized dental procedure known as endodontic treatment (root canal therapy). To help you understand when and why such a procedure might be needed and how a damaged tooth can be saved, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about endodontic treatment.
What is Endodontics?
Endodontics is the area of dentistry concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the dental pulp (the tooth’s soft core). Years ago, teeth with diseased or injured pulp were extracted. Today, endodontic treatment gives dentists a safe and effective means of saving teeth.
What is Dental Pulp?
The pulp is a soft tissue that contains the nerves, arteries, veins and lymph vessels of a tooth. It lies within the dentin, the bone-like tissue that supports the enamel. Within the dentin, the pulp extends from the pulp chamber in the crown (the portion of the tooth that is visible above the gums) down to the tip of the root by way of the root canal. All teeth have only one pulp chamber, but teeth with more than one root will have more than one canal.
What happens to the damaged pulp?
When the pulp is diseased or injured and unable to repair itself, the pulp dies. The most common cause of pulp death is a tooth fracture or a deep cavity that exposes the pulp to saliva. The bacteria found in saliva causes infection inside the tooth. Left untreated, the infection eventually causes the pulp to die. Pus can build up at the root tip, forming an abcess that can destroy the supporting bone that surrounds the tooth.
Why does the pulp need to be removed?
If the damaged or diseased pulp is not removed, the tooth and surrounding tissues become infected. Pain and swelling may accompany the infection. Even in the absence of pain, certain by-products of a diseased pulp can injure the bone that anchors your tooth in the jaw. Without endodontic treatment, your tooth will eventually have to be removed.
What does Endodontic treatment involve?
Treatment usually requires from one to three appointments. During these treatments, the diseased pulp is removed. The pulp chamber and root canal(s) of the tooth are then cleaned, shaped, filled and sealed to prevent recontamination of the root canal system. Root canal therapy usually is a relatively painless procedure. In the final step, a gold or porcelain crown is usually placed over the tooth to restore structure, function and appearance.
*This information was provided by the American Dental Association