Inside each tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called dentin, is soft pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Endodontics is the area of dentistry that deals with this tooth interior for the purposes of preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases and injuries to it.
The pulp is contained in a canal, which is a thin, tube-like space extending from the crown of the tooth to the tip of its root within the jawbone. Here the pulp connects to the tissues surrounding the root. While a tooth is growing, the pulp is crucial for proper and healthy development.
Tooth decay can progress down into the pulp. When this happens, the pulp can become infected. Infection of the pulp can be very painful and can also deteriorate into an abscessed tooth when infection and swelling develops in the tissues around or beneath the tooth. When the pulp becomes infected or the tooth becomes abscessed, it is necessary to perform a root canal.
A root canal treatment is done when decay will likely damage or has already killed a tooth. During a root canal, a dentist or endodontist removes the pulp from the center of a tooth and fills the pulp cavity. This can prevent the development of a painful infection in the pulp and keep it from spreading to other teeth. A root canal procedure will stop the infection and permit the tooth to heal.
A root canal procedure consists of the following steps:
- First, the dentist will numb your gums with a substance that feels like jelly. After your gums are numb, the dentist will inject a local anesthetic that will completely numb the teeth, gums, tongue, and skin in that area. Sometimes nitrous oxide gas will be used to reduce pain and help you relax.
- The dentist may separate the decayed tooth from the other teeth with a small sheet of rubber on a metal frame. This protective rubber sheet also helps stop liquid and tooth chips from entering your mouth and throat.
- The dentist will use a drill and other tools to remove the pulp from the tooth and will fill the inside part of the tooth below the gum line with medicines, temporary filling materials, and a final root canal filling.
- After the root canal, a permanent filling or crown (cap) is often needed. If a crown is needed, the dentist removes the decay, and then makes an impression of the tooth. A technician uses the impression to make a crown that perfectly matches the drilled tooth.
- The tooth may be fitted with a temporary crown until the permanent crown is made and cemented into place.
After a root canal, your lips and gums may remain numb for a few hours until the anesthetic wears off. Later you may experience a throbbing pain, which you can treat with pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a stronger prescription painkiller. The pain usually lasts only a day or two.
Typically, endodontic therapy is a relatively simple procedure done in one or two visits. It can save your diseased or injured tooth with little or no discomfort. The only alternative to endodontic therapy is to extract the infected, diseased or injured tooth. If the infected tooth must be removed, Dental Implants are an option for maintaining dental aesthetics.
An infected tooth is a serious condition and must be treated promptly to avoid tooth loss and the spreading of infection to other teeth. If you are concerned about an infected or abscessed tooth, we urge you to call Mountain High Family Dental and Orthodontics promptly.