To understand what is a root canal, one must first understand what a tooth consists of. In the picture above there is a cross section of two teeth. The outer white area of the tooth is called enamel. Enamel is the strongest material in the body. When decay (the brown substance) gets through the enamel, it reaches a substance called dentin. Dentin has the same density as bone and is not as resistant to decay as enamel. If the decay continues it can reach the root canal system. The “root canal” is like a tunnel in a tooth, it carries your nerve and blood vessel tissue thought the tooth. Like a highway tunnel with cars, when this system has an accident (decay), it becomes busy (inflamed).
A simple root canal is where the dentist or endodontist (a root canal specialist) access the nerve canal (think tunnel) from the decayed part of the tooth, or a small hole made in the top of the tooth, and cleans out the dead tissue. No part of the root is actually removed.
During the root canal procedure the dentist should (it is the standard of care) use a rubber dam to isolate the tooth from oral bacteria. The rubber dam also protects you as a patient from sharp instruments entering your mouth. After the rubber dam is placed, the dentist will make a small access point in top of the tooth to reach the root canal system using a dental drill. He/she will then gently clean and shape the inside of the root using little files. Once completed, he/she will use an antimicrobial agent to kill most of the bacteria, and then seal it using a filling material.
After the root canal is completed, the dentist will complete treatment by sealing off the environment with a post and core and crown.
Why would I need a root canal?
You may need a root canal for many reasons. As always, it’s most important to see your dentist right away if you are experiencing any discomfort or think you may need such a procedure. When you go to the dentist, he/she will perform a few tests to determine if the tooth may need a root canal.
Common reasons people need a root canal are: decay, cracked tooth or accident (bike fall, car accident, etc.).
What are the signs and symptoms of a root canal?
Is the tooth pain waking you up at night? Does OTC pain medication not fix the pain? Is there swelling or bruising? If you have any of these symptoms call your dentist ASAP, as you may need a root canal procedure.
How can I prevent a root canal?
At Pure NZ Dental we practice life long prevention, and this prevention hinges on a good relationship between the patient and the doctor. In most cases, we see a patient twice a year. As the patient, you are lucky enough to spend 365 days a year with… you! Prevention starts with you. Regular checkup also are very important to catch decay and cracks early to try to prevent the need for a root canal. We aren’t all perfect and life happens, so decay sometimes can go unchecked and lead to the pulpal system, and ultimately a possible root canal.
Are root canals painful?
Root canal procedures are now done under some great anesthetic. Pending on your particular diagnosis, a root canal can be completed with little to no discomfort! As always, it is important to let your dentist know if you are experiencing any discomfort with the procedure so they can administer more anesthetic if needed.
In Summary: What is a root canal?
At Pure NZ Dental we do our best to refresh your smile always. A root canal doesn’t have to be a scary thing, a little understanding of the tooth goes a long way to understanding why this procedure may be needed and what can be done to help prevent it. If you think you have any of these symptoms, give us a call at 64630257 and we will work to get you in ASAP.