At the center of the tooth beneath the enamel and dentin layers lies the pulp chamber. Inside is the pulp—soft tissue that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. The teeth exist in an environment teeming with bacteria that digest dietary sugars. If these bacteria enter the pulp chamber, they can begin an inflammatory process that leads to infection, decay, and eventually bone damage, abscesses, and pulp cell death.
What is a root canal?
A root canal involves removing the dead, infected or injured pulp from your tooth. The purpose is to relieve your pain and protect the surrounding tissues from infection and nerve decay. The procedure is also performed to save your tooth. Extraction used to be the primary treatment for unhealthy tooth pulp. However, almost every endodontist will tell you that if a root canal is feasible, it is usually the better option. The initial investment may be more, but it will be less than the cost of replacing an extracted tooth later.
Signs You Need a Root Canal
• your tooth is extra sensitive to heat and cold
• your tooth is dark or discolored
• your tooth or filling is cracked or broken
• you have severe pain with pressure or eating
• you have a large, visible cavity
• you have an abscess on the gum line
• you have pus draining into your mouth
• a foul taste or odor emanates from the tooth
What happens during the procedure?
There are three basic steps. First, the top of your tooth is removed, exposing the damaged interior. Second, the diseased, damaged, or infected pulp (tooth interior) is extracted and replaced with an artificial pulp to keep the tooth in place. Finally, the tooth is sealed and a crown may be placed to prevent bone loss and the spread of infection.
Is It painful?
The procedure itself is painless, because your endodontist will first numb your tooth with a local anesthetic. A patient may experience mild to moderate pain afterward, but that can be managed with good aftercare, including:
• taking over-the-counter pain medications
• avoiding sticky and hard foods
• avoiding chewing on the treated area
• brushing and flossing as normal
• completing an antibiotic schedule as prescribed