Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day is an easy way to keep your teeth and gums healthy. But occasionally, problems occur in the root of the tooth — the part below our gums and into our facial bones — and a more technical treatment is needed to bring your teeth back to good health, and keep them in your mouth. Enter: the root canal.
What is a Root Canal?
To understand the treatment called a root canal, you must understand the part of the tooth also known as a root canal. It is passage on the interior of the tooth between the pulp (which contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue) and the root of the tooth — or you can think of it as the slide blood and nerves move down to connect with the rest of your body. However, root canal treatment is more like cleaning the inside of a bottle with a brush. A thin instrument is inserted through the crown, or top, of the tooth to clean out the infected or damaged pulp. It is then replaced with filler and topped with cement on the crown of the tooth to prevent saliva and bacteria from traveling down. To further protect your tooth, a crown and, sometimes, a post are inserted.
What Causes Root Canal?
The reasons a person might need a root canal are diverse, but they almost always come back to decay. Under most circumstances, tooth decay is prevented by proper oral hygiene. Decay occurs when plaque builds up on the teeth and turns sugars into acid that erodes the teeth and gums.
But tooth decay can result from things other than lazy brushing habits. Damage to the teeth, either chipping or cracking, can lead to decay because it exposes more of the tooth to bacteria. The chips or cracks can come from normal wear and tear over the years, or from an accident or injury to the mouth. On the more severe end, sometimes these injuries are not visible but the pulp of the tooth is damaged, causing it to become infected. Other dental procedures, like fillings or a broken crown, can affect the pulp as well.
Ultimately, anything that weakens or breaks the protective layers of the tooth can cause decay or more serious infections that prompt the need for a root canal. Physical exams and x-rays determine whether someone needs one performed.
What Are The Symptoms of Root Canal?
Sometimes, the only symptom of needing a root canal is pain. It might only be felt when eating or drinking something hot or cold. It could also arise any time you bite down or put pressure on the tooth. But any tooth pain that lasts longer than a day should be dealt with as soon as possible — because sometimes after pain, there is no pain, and that’s not always a good sign.
The pain you feel prior to needing a root canal is because the pulp inside your tooth are infected. When that infection worsens or isn’t treated, the pulp can die, and in the pulp are your tooth’s nerves. The lack of pain might trick you into thinking the problem resolved itself, however that is not always the case. Other symptoms that crop up as the infection lingers are: swollen, tender gums; darkening or change in color of the tooth caused by lack of blood flow; or an abscess where pus leaks from the infected area. Waiting too long to address these symptoms could mean an extraction, instead of root canal, is the only treatment option.
The signs and causes of a root canal are fairly straightforward and come down to one crucial point: anything out of the ordinary should be addressed with your dentist, and quickly. Technology makes the actual root canal procedure simple and any discomfort resulting from it is minimal, so the bigger risk of pain comes from waiting too long to seek treatment.
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Posted In: Dental Procedures