ROOT CANAL TREATMENT
Your teeth are meant to last a lifetime. Even if one of your teeth
becomes injured or diseased, it often can be saved through root canal
(endodontic) treatment. To help you understand this procedure, we
have answered some often asked questions about this treatment.
Diagram of a healthy tooth.
What is root canal treatment?
Your dentist uses root canal treatment to find the cause and then
treat problems of the tooth's soft core (the dental pulp). Years
ago, teeth with diseased or injured pulps were removed. Today, root
canal treatment has given dentists a safe way of saving teeth.
What is the dental pulp?
The pulp is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels
and connective tissue. It lies within the tooth and extends from
the crown of the tooth to the tip of the root in the bone of the
What happens if the pulp gets injured?
When the pulp is diseased or injured and can't repair itself,
it dies. The most common cause of pulp death is a cracked tooth or
a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let germs (bacteria) enter
the pulp. Germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. Left without
treatment, pus builds up at the root tip, in the jawbone, forming
a "pus-pocket" called an abscess. An abscess can cause damage to
the bone around the teeth.
Why does the pulp need to be removed?
When the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result.
Certain byproducts of the infection can injure your jaw bones. Without
treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.
What does treatment involve?
Treatment often involves from one to three visits. During treatment,
your general dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in
problems of the pulp) removes the diseased pulp. The pulp chamber
and root canal(s) of the tooth are then cleaned and sealed.
Here's how your tooth is saved through treatment:
First, an opening is made through the crown of the tooth into the pulp chamber..
The pulp is then removed. The root canal(s) is cleaned and shaped
to a form that can be filled.
Medications may be put in the pulp chamber and root canal(s)
to help get rid of germs and prevent infection.
A temporary filling will be placed in the crown opening to protect
the tooth between dental visits. Your dentist may leave the tooth
open for a few days to drain. You might also be given medicine to
help control infection that may have spread beyond the tooth.
The temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root
canal(s) are cleaned and filled.
In the final step, a porcelain crown is usually placed
over the tooth. If an endodontist performs the treatment, he or
she will recommend that you return to your family dentist for this
How long will the restored tooth last?
Your restored tooth could last a lifetime, if you continue to
care for your teeth and gums. However, regular checkups are necessary.
As long as the root(s) of a treated tooth are nourished by the tissues
around it, your tooth will remain healthy.
Copyright © American Dental Association