Few dental procedures inspire fear like a root canal. Most people use the term “root canal” as shorthand for root canal treatment (or therapy). Millions of teeth are saved each year by root canal treatment, and it’s a procedure performed routinely here at the Yuba City Dentistry Group. But what is root canal treatment, exactly?
To understand why root canal therapy is needed, it helps to know a little bit about your tooth’s anatomy. Inside your tooth, under the hard layers of enamel and dentin, is a collection of soft tissue called pulp. The pulp consists of blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerve cells and it rests inside the “root canal.” When an infection develops in the pulp, it can cause intense pain. After a while, the pain may go away — but the infection doesn’t. If left untreated, an infection can lead to a dental abscess, and may even spread to other parts of the body. Root canal therapy is the sequence of procedures designed to treat problems of the dental roots and soft pulp tissue.
Whereas most think of root canal treatment as extremely painful, in most cases it isn’t. The truth is, it has the potential to save you from much greater pain. If your tooth is infected, it can cause excruciating pain. Root canal treatment takes away the source of that pain. And since it is performed under a local anesthetic, or even with sedation dentistry, your discomfort is minimal, or even “zero.”
Additionally, saving your tooth by means of root canal therapy has some very positive results. If left untreated, your tooth will eventually need to be extracted. This can lead to subsequent complications, such as: shifting of the teeth, difficulties in chewing, the need for a dental bridge or implant, and the loss of bone from the area surrounding the extracted tooth. Keeping the tooth by repairing the damage means the original will last anywhere from a number of years to the rest of your lifetime!
Root canal problems involve infection of the pulp tissue within a tooth. A number of causes might lead to such an infection. Leaving a cavity untreated usually allows bacteria to eventually reach the center of the tooth. An opening in the protective enamel, due to a chipped or cracked tooth, might do the same.
Severe tooth trauma, resulting from a sports injury or automobile accident, could also damage the pulp tissue. It’s crucial under such circumstances to seek treatment immediately, both in an attempt to save the tooth and to prevent future problems. While emergency room doctors are extremely qualified practitioners, they are not dentists. Not all hospitals keep dentists on staff and getting to our Yuba City dentists as soon as possible after suffering oral trauma is critical to keeping all of your teeth, or as many teeth as possible.
Besides infection or accidents, repeated procedures on the same tooth or unexpected complications during a dental procedure may lead to pulp tissue damage, requiring root canal therapy. For example, common procedures that are normally carried out without incident or significant side effects (such as orthodontics or crown preparation) can lead to root canal problems, but this is very rare.
At times, there will be no mistake: Constant, throbbing pain in your mouth will surely send you straight to the dentist for a diagnosis. But don’t wait until then! Set up an appointment immediately if you experience any of the following:
Evaluating these problems early on greatly increases the potential for successfully treating your tooth.