You might think you know what a root canal is, but do you really? What is a root canal?
By definition, a root canal is a “pulp-filled cavity in the root of a tooth.” Within the root canal, you’ll find nerves and pulp, which both contribute to the formation of adult teeth. Dental pulp also nourishes and hydrates the structure of our teeth, making them less likely to break, and it is responsible for the hot and cold sensations we feel when we eat certain foods and drink certain drinks. When a root canal becomes infected, dentists often recommend root canal therapy to preserve the tooth and alleviate the patient’s pain. To learn more about the root canal and root canal therapy, please scroll down.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is located at the center of every tooth and, as we mentioned above, it contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. If these nerves or tissues are damaged, they can cause extreme pain, swelling, an infection, or even an abscess.
Although the term “root canal” refers most specifically to the space within the root of a tooth, it is also used to refer to root canal therapy (also known as endodontic therapy) a procedure used to relieve pain within the root canal. During root canal therapy, the dental pulp within a tooth is removed. Then, the space is disinfected and filled to prevent future problems. This treatment alleviates dental pain, prevents permanent damage to the dental pulp, and preserves the tooth itself. Depending on the severity of the abscess, root canal therapy can be performed by your regular dentist or a specialist (also known as an endodontist).
Although root canal therapy has a bad reputation, our modern technology and effective anesthesia make the procedure comfortable for patients. For a less stressful appointment, it may help to learn more about the process, so that you understand each step of the procedure. Although this therapy varies from patient to patient, here are some of the typical steps:
- The patient may need to take antibiotics to reduce swelling before the procedure.
- The dentist will numb the area thoroughly to ensure that no pain is felt.
- A rubber dam is placed into the patient’s mouth to protect the tooth from exposure.
- The dentist drills a small hole into the tooth and removes the infected pulp and nerve.
- The hollow area is cleaned and disinfected.
- The tooth is filled with a rubber-like compound called gutta-percha.
- To strengthen and protect the tooth, a crown is added. This also improves the tooth’s appearance.
A root canal treatment takes about 45 minutes, and although you will need to hold your mouth open for quite some time, there is no pain involved. More importantly, the removal of the infected pulp will immediately eliminate your pain and the crown will protect your tooth from future infection. To better understand the recovery process, check out our blog post What to Expect After a Root Canal.
For more information on root canal therapy and other services offered by Wilkinson Dental, please contact us today by calling 417-708-0556 or using our online contact form. We would be happy to discuss your options, answer any questions you might have, and schedule your first appointment.