The words “root canal”, more often than not, strike fear into the heart of the patient who hears this diagnosis. And it’s not without reason! Dentistry techniques have advanced so much since the days when “root canal” was referred to as something akin to torture of the highest degree. Advancements in anesthetics and in sedation dentistry have made it so that today’s root canal treatment can be done painlessly.
In fact, many sedation dentistry patients who receive root canals don’t even remember the procedure at all. Now that you know that your root canal treatment can be painless, let’s talk about the dental conditions that result in the need for root canal therapy.
Your teeth have several layers; the outer layer of protective enamel, a secondary layer of dentin, and an inner soft “pulp” tissue layer, containing the nerves, veins, arteries and lymph vessels. Each of these pulp chambers in your teeth branches off, forming canals that lead towards the tooth root tip. These ‘canals’ are the life center of the tooth, and support all that is living in the tooth. When some kind of damage, be it from decay, traumatic injury, or other type of tooth fracture, makes the canal susceptible to bacterial infection, the infected, or sometimes even dead, tissue must be removed.
When the tooth’s canal has suffered irreversible damage, it is necessary to perform endodontic treatment, also know as a root canal. This procedure involves scraping away the dead or decayed matter, before filing the tooth, often fitting it with a crown to restore function.
Different teeth have different numbers of canals. Front teeth usually have one canal and back teeth can have as many as 5 canals. Today, most root canals can be done in one appointment, and usually with minimal side effects. After having a root canal done, the tooth must be protected with a proper restoration, typically a crown. Failure to get a proper restoration can potentially lead to fracture and the subsequent loss of your tooth.