Technically a root canal is a section in our tooth that contains the nerves. The inner section of a tooth is basically composed of a pulp chamber, the nerves and the root canal. The pulp chamber is the space that’s at the center of our tooth. The root canals are the “tunnels” that the nerve passes through from the bottom tip of the tooth (inside the gums) to get to the chamber.
Root canals are also the popularly used term for an Endodontic therapy or the root canal treatment. This involves the cleaning of the tooth to remove infection or to prevent its occurrence due to chipping or cracks.
How root canal therapy is done:
Root canal therapy can be done in one or multiple dental treatment sessions. Normally patients are scheduled for more than one session because some dentists don’t seal the tooth immediately after cleaning a tooth. Depending on the person’s condition or the condition of the tooth, the dentist may also require intake of antibiotics prior to the therapy.
Below is the sequence of acts that will be performed in a root canal treatment:
- Anesthetize the tooth in order to reduce pain. This is necessary otherwise the whole process becomes unbearable for most people.
- The dentist will then place what is called a “rubber dam” around the tooth. This is done to prevent saliva from entering the tooth. Saliva contains bacteria so it needs to be kept out.
- The tooth is then drilled to allow access to the pulp.
- The tooth is then cleaned by tiny files. The dentist will use the files to remove everything that’s inside the tooth down to the tip of the root canal. This process will include the removal of nerve tissue along with everything else. It might seem excessive but once a tooth has grown to its full size the nerve tissues aren’t really necessary anymore. Their major role plays out during the growth of the tooth and ends after.
- During the “filing” of the tooth, the dentist will also wash the debris out from time to time. This is called “irrigating” and uses a solution of Clorox to disinfect the insides of the tooth.
- A dental x-ray is used by the doctor to check if the cleaning has reached the tip of the root canal.
- Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it is dried with paper and the root canal is filled with a rubbery substance called gutta percha and a sealent.
Not all root canal treatments are sealed immediately and if the dentist finds an infection still present he will postpone it until the infection is dealt with. Also post operation, the tooth can be a bit sore so the dentist might prescribe a pain reliever.
How can you tell if you need a root canal procedure?
The symptoms are fairly easy to notice because you may be in pain.
• Tooth hurts when you bite into something.
• You experience recurrent toothaches that require pain relievers to suppress.
• You develop pimples or bulges with puss on your gums.
• Your gums start to swell.
• Your tooth becomes overly sensitive to heat and/or cold.
• Blackening of the tooth.
You will require a visit to your dentist to be certain of the condition and he will most likely perform a visual inspection or an x-ray.
Why do we need a root canal?
Often times the reason for a root canal is the infection of the nerves which happens when the decay in a tooth becomes too deep. Once this happens, an Endodontic therapy becomes necessary to clean out the insides of the tooth and remove the infection.
Another common reason is trauma. If a tooth keeps getting hit consecutively or if it is hit hard enough, some of the tissue can die. It might not be immediately observable and can even take a couple of years but it will eventually happen.