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Root Canal Treatment

04 Mar 2014
Even if one of your teeth becomes injured or decayed, it can often be saved through a specialized dental procedure known as root canal (endodontic) treatment. To help you understand when and why you might need this procedure and how a damaged tooth can be saved, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about endodontic treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment usually involves the removal of the tooth's pulp, a small thread-like tissue that was important for tooth development. Once removed, it is replaced with materials that seal off the root canal from its surrounding tissues. Years ago, diseased or injured teeth were often extracted. Today, even if the pulp in one of your teeth becomes injured or infected, the tooth often can be saved through root canal (endodontic) treatment. Endodontics is the branch of dentistry concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases or injuries to the dental pulp.

What is the dental pulp?

The pulp is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. It lies within the tooth and extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the root in the bone of the jaws.

What happens if the pulp gets injured?

An abscessed (infected) tooth caused by tooth decay. When the pulp is diseased or injured and can't repair itself, it dies. The most common cause of pulp death is a cracked tooth or a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let germs (bacteria) enter the pulp. Germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. Left without treatment, pus builds up at the root tip, in the jawbone, forming a "pus-pocket" called an abscess. An abscess can cause damage to the bone around the teeth.

Why does the pulp need to be removed?

When the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result. Certain byproducts of the infection can injure your jaw bones. Without treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.

Why couldn't you just remove the tooth?

There are many disadvantages to losing a natural tooth. When a tooth is removed and not replaced, the adjacent teeth may begin to shift from their normal position. This may cause the teeth to become crooked or crowded, which decreases biting and chewing efficiency. Crowded or crooked teeth may be more prone to gum disease because they are harder to keep clean than properly aligned teeth. A replacement tooth (an implant or bridge) is usually more expensive than endodontic treatment and can involve more extensive dental procedures on adjacent teeth. A natural tooth is normally better than artificial teeth.

How long will the restored tooth last?

Your restored tooth could last a lifetime, if you continue to care for your teeth and gums. However, regular checkups are necessary. As long as the root(s) of a treated tooth are nourished by the tissues around it, your tooth will remain healthy.

What material will be used for the crown?

Crowns are made from a number of materials. Gold alloys or nonprecious alloys, or porcelain or ceramic, acrylic or composite resin or combinations of these materials may be used. The type of material used for the crown will depend on a number of factors including where the tooth is located in your mouth, the color of the tooth and the amount of natural tooth remaining. Speak to Dr. Anderson about which option is suited to your situation.