What are Root Canals For?

What exactly is a root canal and why do people need one? How long does the procedure take? What does the dentist do when a root canal treatment is needed? These are all good questions about a root canal. Here are some answers about a root canal that will hopefully calm your nerves about ever needing one someday.

A dentist does a “root canal treatment”, when it had become necessary to remove the tooth’s pulp, which is a small, thread-like tissue at the center of each tooth. If the pulp becomes diseased, damaged or is dead the dentist must remove it. Dentist’s used to just remove these teeth in past generations but today it is better to remove the pulp and save the tooth.

Pulp Damage

There are many causes for pulp damage or death including a cracked tooth, a really deep cavity, or an injury to a tooth that occurred in the past or even recently that caused the pulp to become infected or to die.

If left untreated a pulp that was infected or dead could build up pus at the root tip of the jawbone, which would than form an abscess that could destroy the bone surrounding the tooth, and then the individual would feel pain in that area.

Root Canal Steps

There are several steps that a dentist takes when doing a root canal treatment. The individual will need to make several dental appointments in order to accomplish all of the necessary steps to the root canal treatment.

The dentist makes an opening in the tooth. If the tooth is a pre-molar or a molar the opening is made in the crown of the tooth. The opening is made through the back of other teeth. The dentist performs a pulpectomy, which is when the diseased or dead pulp of the tooth is removed. The pulp chamber is then cleaned, enlarged and shaped in preparation for the new filling. The root canals are also cleaned.

If the dentist needs more than one visit to complete the work (which is the usual case) a temporary filling is placed in the tooth to protect the tooth until the work can be finished.

On the next dental visit the temporary filling is removed and the permanent filling is placed in the pulp chamber. Gutta-percha, which is a tapered, rubbery material, is placed into the root canals and is sealed into place using cement. The dentist may place a metal or plastic rod in the canal for structural support if needed.

The last step of the root canal is to place a crown over the tooth to restore the natural shape and appearance of the tooth. If the tooth is not in good shape a post may be used to build it up before the crown if placed on the tooth.