***Originally published at http://www.davisdentistry.com/services/root-canal***
“Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth”. When you have a root canal, or “endodontic treatment ,” on your tooth, you are having dental treatment done inside your tooth rather than on the surface of your tooth.
Many denstists believe that the more informed their patients are, the more comfortable they will be during their dental treatment appointments. In order to understand your endodontic treatment, you will need to have a basic understanding of your tooth’s anatomy. Inside your tooth, under the hard white enamel that you see, and just beneath a middle layer of your tooth called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp of your tooth contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. It is the pulp of your tooth that was responsible for the development of your tooth’s dentin and enamel when you were a child.
The pulp extends from the crown (or top) of your tooth to the tip of your tooth’s roots, and is housed within a hollow tube in the center of your tooth called the root canal. At the root, or bottom, of your tooth, the pulp connects to your gum tissues, blood supply, nerves, and bone surrounding the root of your tooth. The pulp is important during a tooth’s growth and development, as it housed the blood supply that carried nutrients to your developing tooth. Once your tooth is fully mature, however, it can survive without the pulp. This is because your tooth can draw its nourishment from the tissues surrounding it.
Will I Feel Pain During Or After The Procedure?
As your comfort is very important, your dentist will work to ensure that you are completely numb through your whole appointment and will also answer any additional questions you might have. Using modern techniques and proper anesthetics, most patients would say that they are very comfortable during the entire dental procedure.
For the first few days after your endodontic treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if you were experiencing tooth pain or had an active infection in your tooth before the endodontic procedure. This discomfort is normal, and can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. If your dentist does prescribe any medications for you, you will be strongly encouraged to adhere to the dosage directions as prescribed. In addition, your dentist may suggest that you maintain a diet of softer foods for the week following your appointment in order to reduce the pressure on your tooth while eating.
Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different, although not painful, from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, you should call your dentist immediately.
Why Would You Need Endodontic Treatment on Your Tooth?
Endodontic treatment becomes necessary when the pulp of your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth.
- When your tooth has deep decay in it, the amount of tooth structure remaining to protect your nerve inside the tooth pulp is minimized.
- Just as your feet can hurt from pounding the pavement all day, your tooth’s nerve will become inflamed and irritated from repeatedly hitting your other teeth, grinding on food, and exposure to hot and cold temperatures.
- When you have any dental procedure done on your tooth, your tooth’s nerve is slightly irritated. Most of the time, your tooth’s nerve will fully recover and you will have no long-lasting sensitivity on your tooth. Occasionally, however, your tooth’s nerve will be overcome by your dental treatment and will remain painful.
- When you have a crack in your tooth, your tooth will slightly separate into its two halves each time that you put pressure on your broken tooth. When this happens, your tooth’s nerve will often slip into the crack and will then be pinched between the two sides of your tooth. Just as a pinched nerve in your back will cause constant and intense pain, your tooth’s pinched nerve will remain painful until it is treated.
- In addition, a traumatic injury to your tooth may cause pulp and nerve damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause severe pain or even lead to an abscess.
Unlike almost every other part of your body, your teeth do not heal themselves and severe pain rarely will resolve on its own. This means that although the nerve that fires when you bang your “funny-bone” will quickly settle down, an irritated tooth nerve will not stop throbbing once it begins. Of course, medications may quiet the pain temporarily, but it will always come back with a vengeance.
What Are The Signs Of Needing Endodontic Treatment?
While there are many indications that you might need endodontic treatment on your tooth, it is important to also know that not all tooth pain must be treated with a root canal. Some of the symptoms that your tooth might need endodontic treatment are pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of your tooth, swelling near your tooth, pus draining from the bottom of your tooth, or tenderness in the lymph nodes and bone and gingival tissues around your tooth. Sometimes, you may feel no symptoms on your tooth even though you do have clinical signs indicating that your tooth needs endodontic treatment.
How Does Endodontic Treatment Save The Tooth?
Having endodontic treatment on the inside of your tooth is similar to having a filling done on the top of your tooth. After creating a small opening in your tooth, much as would be done for a filling, your dentist will gently remove the nerve of your tooth. Then, the dentist will clean and shape the root canal inside your tooth. After filling your tooth from the root up with a biocompatible material called gutta percha, your dentist will permanently seal the top of your tooth with a white composite filling. To ensure the long-term success of your endodontic treatment and the stability of your tooth, most dentists will prepare your tooth for a permanent crown or “cap.” After your endodontic treatment is completed and your final crown is placed, your tooth will continue to look and function like any other natural tooth in your mouth.