Root Canals


Dentists today believe that the best teeth are your own, and they make sure you do not lose any of them. Successful root canal treatment lets you keep your tooth. The only other option is to have your tooth removed.

Keeping your tooth helps to prevent your other teeth from drifting out of line and causing jaw problems or gum disease. Saving a natural tooth avoids having to replace it with either a bridge or an implant.

What is Root Canal Treatment?

Also called endodontics, root canal treatment is the process of removing the infected, injured or dead pulp from a tooth.

Teeth are made up of three hard layers:

1. Enamel
2. Dentin
3. Cementum

There is a space inside the hard layers of each tooth. It is called the root canal system and it is filled with soft dental pulp made up of nerves and blood vessels that help the tooth grow and develop. Once a tooth is fully-grown, it can survive without a pulp. If the pulp of a tooth becomes infected, a root canal (or endodontic treatment) is needed. When this treatment is performed, the pulp is removed.

During your regular check-up, your dentist checks for infection and damage to teeth, even though you may not notice any signs of tooth trouble. If trouble is spotted and you need a root canal, your dentist may do it, or refer you to a dental specialist with at least two years of extra university training in this area.

Root canal specialists are called endodontists. If your child’s baby (or primary) tooth is damaged, your dentist may refer you to a pediatric dentist. If you notice a problem with a tooth, do not wait until it hurts. Call your dentist as soon as you injure a tooth or notice a cavity or loose filling. If you get attention quickly, there is a better chance that damage can be prevented and the tooth saved.

When Root Canal Treatment is Needed

The pulp inside a tooth can be damaged by cracks in the tooth, deep cavities or accidents. Germs (or bacteria) can get into the tooth and lead to infected tooth pulp. This situation may cause pain and/or swelling. Sometimes, the pulp becomes infected or dies, but does not cause any pain.

Your dentist may notice:

* changes in the colour of the tooth.
* changes in your gums.
* changes picked up by a dental x-ray.

Sometimes, if a great deal of dental work is needed, your dentist can tell from your exam and x-rays that the pulp of a tooth is not likely to survive. In all these cases, root canal treatment can ease or prevent symptoms, and save the tooth.

How it’s done:

Step 1
A member of the dental team will place a rubber dam around the tooth. This dam protects the tooth from germs in your saliva while the work is being done.

Step 2
Your dentist or endodontist may give you “freezing” (or anesthetic). In some cases, anesthetic is not needed.

Step 3
Your dentist or endodontist will make a small opening in the tooth to reach the root canal system and the damaged pulp.

Step 4
Your dentist will take out the pulp by cleaning and enlarging the root canal system with very fine dental tools (or instruments).

Step 5
Then he or she will fill and seal the root canal with a rubber-like material (called guttapercha) after it has been cleaned.

Step 6
Your dentist or endodontist will seal the opening of the tooth with either a temporary or permanent filling. A crown should be placed after an endodontically treated tooth to prevent fracture.

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