Root Canal Therapy
A root canal is a dental treatment to address injury to or severe infection of a tooth. Rather than removing the entire tooth, root canal therapy allows your dentist to remove only the affected pulp tissue, while preserving the remaining tooth structure.
Understanding Dental Pulp
Root canals treat toothaches and other dental problems by removing damaged or infected pulp. Dental pulp is soft tissue contained within your teeth; it lies beneath the harder layers of enamel (the visible part of your tooth) and dentin (hard, bony tissue that provides bulk and shape to the tooth). The pulp tissue contains nerve endings and the blood vessels that supply nutrients to the tooth, keeping it healthy. However, untreated tooth decay can eat through the enamel and dentin, causing an infection in the pulp beneath. Oral injuries can also damage the outer layers of a tooth, exposing the pulp and putting your tooth’s health at risk. In these cases, a root canal is needed to extract the affected pulp and preserve the remaining natural tooth structure as an alternative to pulling and replacing the tooth with dentures or a dental implant.
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it will be sealed with either a permanent filling or, if additional appointments are needed, a temporary filling will be placed. After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth has healed.
Root Canal Success
Although root canals offer a 95% success rate, complications can arise following treatment, despite your dentist’s best efforts. Understanding root canal complications can help you spot problems that do occur and seek prompt treatment.
The success of a root canal hinges not only on the complete removal of all infected pulp, but on the quality of the sealing and restoration of the tooth as well. Sealants can break down over time, allowing bacteria to enter the tooth and cause a second infection. A restoration (crown) that deteriorates over time can also allow bacteria entrance into your tooth.
Some teeth naturally have many canals or small branches and forks in the pulp canals. These can be easily overlooked even by the most competent dentist, causing infection to persist even after a root canal procedure. If you experience symptoms of a toothache or swelling in a treated tooth, contact your dentist for evaluation; your tooth may need retreatment to remove additional infected pulp.
Cracks can form either before or after a tooth receives a root canal. A cracked tooth is vulnerable to bacterial entry and may need additional treatment or eventual removal, even if your root canal was successful.