Once tooth decay becomes too severe, the safety of the tooth is threatened. There is a certain point where simply clearing away the decay and placing a filling is no longer an option. The decay may have spread deeper, and the root of the tooth may be infected. If this is the case, root canal therapy will be necessary to save the tooth.
What Is Root Canal Therapy?
Once the pulp of a tooth has become infected, root canal therapy will be required to restore the health of the tooth. Root canal therapy (also known as a “root canal”) is the actual treatment of this infection, and the restoration of the damaged tooth.
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Why Would I Need a Root Canal?
In order to understand why you may need root canal therapy, it’s first important to understand what a pulp infection is. This starts with understanding the parts of a tooth that the tooth is made up of. Teeth have enamel, dentin and pulp. In the pulp is the blood vessels and nerves of the tooth. The pulp of a tooth extends all the way from the crown to the roots of the tooth. Once a tooth has been decayed or damaged, the pulp of the tooth can become infected or inflamed. Once this happens, a root canal will need to be performed to restore the tooth.
It’s important to understand just why root canal therapy is so important. Once the pulp of a tooth has become infected, it’s only a matter of time before an abscess forms. This can lead to major oral health issues, including an infection of the jawbone. Serious enough tooth infection and decay also may lead to the need for the dentist extract the tooth.
Root Canal Therapy Process
The actual process of root canal therapy starts with a trip to the dentist either for a regular checkup, or because a tooth is experiencing discomfort. From there, your dentist will diagnose the issue. If they have decided that the pulp of your tooth has become infected and/or inflamed, they will schedule a root canal therapy procedure.
During the procedure, your dentist will numb the tooth, and use a small shield to keep the tooth dry. Your dentist will then make an opening through the crown of your tooth, that extends to the pulp chamber. Your dentist will then use a special instrument to clean out the infected tissue. A radiograph may be taken to better determine the length of each canal. Once this has been determined, scraping and disinfecting will occur to the walls of the canals to remove necrotic and infected tissue. This will also remove any bacteria adhesions.
After the cleaning, the canals are filled with gutta-percha. This is a rubber material that is placed in each canal to seal the canals. Often this material is heated to ensure a proper seal. From there, a crown will be placed to restore the integrity of the tooth.
Because primary teeth are more susceptible to decay and infection, your child may develop a pulp infection. This will lead to the need for a pulpotomy. This is essentially a word for root canal therapy that is performed on a primary (baby) tooth. This procedure will help to prevent premature extraction of a baby tooth. Keep in mind that adult teeth are forming below baby teeth, and to ensure the health of the adult teeth, it is important to treat any infection to the baby teeth.
The actual procedure is very similar to the root canal therapy that an adult would experience. Because only the pulp chamber of a baby tooth needs to be cleaned out, pulpotomies are often quicker than adult root canal therapy.
Root Canal Aftercare
After a root canal, your tooth may be more sensitive. This means sensitivity to hot and cold beverages and foods. If only temporary restoration of the tooth was performed after the root canal therapy procedure, a trip to the dentist for the finished restoration is necessary. As long as the tooth is properly cared for after the root canal therapy, it should last for the rest of your life.
Keep in mind that after root canal therapy, even after a filling is placed, the tooth can still become decayed and infected. This can lead to serious oral health issues. Make sure to take proper care of your oral health after the root canal procedure, and don’t take the procedure for granted. Be vigilant in the care of your tooth and your oral health overall after root canal therapy.
Root Canal Prevention
In order to avoid root canal therapy, it’s important to take good care of your overall oral health. This includes brushing your teeth, flossing and rinsing twice a day, every day. It also means a trip to the dentist every six months for a professional checkup and cleaning.
If you have children, you’ll want to make sure that they are properly brushing, flossing and rinsing. While teaching a child to do these things is relatively easy, it’s still necessary to keep up with them to ensure that they are brushing, flossing and rinsing every day, twice a day. Many children get cavities and even infected root pulps simply from not taking proper care of their teeth.
Diet is also an important aspect of oral health. Eating sugary foods, drinking soda and smoking can cause problems with the oral health of a patient. Avoiding tobacco products and unhealthy foods can decrease the chances of oral health issues, including root pulp infections.