First, let's review something that is very important: Every tooth has a root canal. That is the name of the tiny canal that runs through the center of each tooth's root. This "tube" houses the pulp, which is the soft tissue inside of the tooth that includes nerves and blood vessels. When there is a problem with the pulp, your dentist will perform endodontic treatment, otherwise known as root canal therapy (RCT).

Now that we've gotten a mini anatomy lesson out of the way, we can fill you in on some of the reasons why a patient may need RCT. Here are some of the most common of inflammation of the pulp - pulpitis:

  1. Trauma: anytime a tooth is traumatized, such as in a fall or  sports injury, the tooth can essentially suffer internal injuries. This concussion can lead to a slow (or sometimes not so slow!) death of pulpal tissue. 
  2. A dental cavity: As you can read in some of our previous blogs, what a patient calls a cavity is what we call a carious lesion. Somehow that sounds worse, doesn't it? This lesion is the dissolution of tooth structure caused by a bacterial infection. When the bacteria approaches the pulp, the patient will often (but not always) experience a toothache. If the infection reaches the pulp it becomes inflamed and will in most cases lead to an abscess. 
  3. Periodontal disease: Sometimes surrounding structures (gums and bone) can become infected and can follow a path into the tooth through the root. This is not usually cured with a root canal because of nature of the infection. 

So what is RCT and why is it done? This therapy involves the removal of the pulp tissue, including the affected nerve. During the process the soft tissue is removed from the canal and the canal is disinfected and shaped in a way to allow for easy access for refilling. The canals are then filled with a material that will provide strength and a seal the tooth root from reinfection from bacteria. 

I like this cartoon borrowed from York Hill Endodontics.

The end result? No more tooth pain and a vast reduction in the likelihood of a painful dental abscess. In some cases, especially on molars, your dentist will recommend a crown to further protect the tooth from fracture and reinfection.  

CrossKeys Dental is located at 110 CrossKeys Office Park in Fairport. Dr. DuPre` and Dr. Badali provide comprehensive family dentistry and are always welcoming new patients. Visit us for more information. Written by Vincent Badali, DDS