If there was an award for ‘least understood dental procedure’, the root canal treatment would win every time. Most people can picture what might be involved in filling a cavity, or placing a crown over a damaged tooth. But what the heck is a root canal treatment? Is there a canal in my tooth?
The Structure of a Tooth
To better understand root canal treatments, it helps to learn more about the basic structure of your teeth.
1. Two Sections of a Tooth
Your tooth has two main sections. The crown is the uppermost and mainly visible section, and the root is the lower part that extends into the jawbone.
The hard white part of a tooth that you see, and that covers the crown, is called the enamel.
The dentin is a layer of hard tissue under the enamel that extends from the crown into the root of the tooth.
The Root Canal
The root canal is a space inside the dentin of a tooth that houses the pulp of the tooth.
The pulp of your tooth is soft tissue made up of blood vessels and nerve tissue. The pulp is very important for the growth and development of your teeth. But, once your teeth are mature, they no longer need the pulp.
The infections we commonly get, like from a cut on your skin, mainly affects our soft tissue. While the hard enamel of your tooth can decay, it will not be affected by an infection. As the only soft tissue in your tooth, the pulp can become infected. Pulp infections can happen when bacteria gets into a tooth through a crack or cavity.
Left untreated, a pulp infection can become very painful and can lead to an abscessed tooth.
Signs That Your Tooth is Infected
When the pulp is infected, it becomes very sensitive to pain. If you experience pain in a tooth when it is exposed to heat or cold, when chewing, or even when you touch it, they all could be signs that the tooth is infected. You might need root canal treatment to get rid of the infection.
Root Canal Treatment
Considering that the pulp is no longer needed by a mature tooth, your dentist removes the pulp during a root canal treatment.
After making a small opening in the crown of the tooth, the dentist uses specialized instruments to remove the pulp from the root canal and to clean and prepare the open space that’s left for filling.
The dentist then fills the open space with a material that completely seals the root canal so nothing can ever get into the space. After filling the space, the dentist will use a temporary filling to close the opening used to remove the pulp.
At a subsequent visit to the dentist, a crown or other procedure will be used to bring your tooth back to its full function.
What to Expect from a Root Canal Treatment
Contrary to what you might hear from others or in the media, most patients report that they are comfortable throughout a root canal treatment. In the days following the treatment, your may experience some sensitivity in the tooth, especially if the infection was more severe. Your dentist will give you instructions for caring for the tooth following the treatment. If you feel severe pain or discomfort, you should report it to the dentist.
If you suspect you have an infected tooth, or you are experiencing pain in any of your teeth, contact us at myDentalcare here in Lindsay, Ontario, to find out if a root canal treatment can relieve it