Getting to the Root of the Problem

Root canals. They’re a part of your tooth, they’re a procedure, they’re generally seen as a pain in the neck. The procedure is dreaded by many, but fortunately, there’s little pain associated with root canals. Much of the fear about root canals may be driven by ignorance of what the procedure actually entails; ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to avoiding the dentist, avoiding the dentist leads to severe oral health problems (sometimes known as The Dark Side). Elucidating root canals will show that the procedure, while complicated, should cause no more pain than filling a cavity.

For starters, what exactly is a root canal? To understand that, you need a basic grasp of the anatomy of a tooth. There are three layers you need to know about; the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp. The enamel is the part of the tooth you see; for most people, it what they think of when they think of teeth at all; it’s durable, off-white in colour, and visible above the gumline. Dentin is found below the enamel, and when infection reaches the dentin layer, the tooth’s pulp is next. Pulp is the name for the soft tissue in the teeth where all the nerves and blood vessels are found. The pulp is found inside of a canal near the root of the tooth; a root canal treatment is the removal of infected pulp from this canal.

In order to perform a root canal, your dentist or endodontist will follow a series of steps. First, they’ll anesthetize the area where the root canal is being performed, you may also receive a sedative to calm you if you’re fairly nervous. A rubber dam will be placed around the tooth being treated, so bacteria from your saliva and mouth won’t enter into the tooth. An opening will be made in your tooth so your dentist can access the pulp, then, using very fine instruments, your dentist will clean away the infected pulp and your root canals will be shaped for filling. To replace the pulp, your dentist will fill your tooth with a material that won’t cause adverse reactions from your body, usually a rubber like substance called gutta-percha. A temporary or permanent filling will then be placed on the tooth, the type of which will depend on the health of the tooth after the procedure.

Once the root canal is complete, oral care involves the same procedures as regular teeth do. It’s worth noting that root canals should be relatively painless; if after a procedure you’re experiencing severe pain or swelling, you should go back to your dentist as they may be symptoms of a problem. If you’re experiencing tooth pain, you may have a cavity, but you may also need a root canal; not getting treatment done exposes you to a wide variety of other oral health problems, so visit your Winnipeg dental office regularly.