The dental procedure known as a root canal is often employed to save a natural tooth. Dentists commonly perform this operation as part of their general resume. Endodontists and oral surgeons are specialists who can provide root canal treatments as well. In general, root canal treatment means the removal of the pulp tissue from within a tooth and its replacements with a material to seal the hollowed our root system. Root canals become necessary in a variety of situations. Here are some reasons why your dentist could decide this procedure is the best option in your case.
- Tooth decay can wreak havoc on a tooth. Infections due to bacteria can eat away at the enamel and delve farther if left unchecked. While early intervention with a bonded filling or a crown can often prevent the need for invasive treatment, many times an infection damages and weakens the tooth to the point that a root canal is necessary. This generally occurs when the pulp (the inner portion of the tooth) becomes inflamed or dies. If left untreated infection can form around the root. Eventually the infection can spread to the face and cause swelling and even life threatening systemic infection. A root canal can usually effectively clear the infection and save the tooth.
- Trauma can lead to the need for a root canal. This happens when forceful impact occurs to a tooth. A blow to the mouth, a bad fall, a car accident can cause trauma to the tooth and the pulp tissue. Sometimes, even many years after the trauma, the pulp can die and become infected. Root canal treatment to remove the infected pulp can save the tooth.
- A deep filling due to deep decay often will cause a tooth to be temperature sensitive. This is normal. Occasionally, even years later, the pulp will become inflamed or infected and require root canal treatment.
Modern root canal treatment is usually comfortable and painless. Dental IV sedation anesthesia is available for apprehensive patients. Contrary to popular belief root canals do not cause pain, they relieve pain!
Peter J. Samuels, DDS is clinical instructor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry and a local Gettysburg dentist.