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Understanding Root Canal Therapy

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By Author: Clayton Cross
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Many people dread hearing from their dentist that they need root canal treatment or root canal therapy (RCT), but this fear is mostly driven by a lack of understanding of what RCT entails. While root canal treatment is used to resolve serious dental problems, the procedure itself should be no more uncomfortable than having a regular filling done.

A Quick Look at Tooth Anatomy

Each of our teeth is made up of a hard exterior of enamel and dentine, along with one or more roots that anchor our teeth to our jaw – much like how the root of a plant or tree keep it anchored in the ground. But the interior of each tooth contains the tooth pulp – a soft tissue consisting of blood vessels and nerves – which provides the tooth with oxygen and nutrients, keeping it alive. A cracked tooth, general tooth decay, and untreated gum disease can all lead to the tooth pulp being exposed to bacteria, resulting in it becoming infected, and possibly leading to an abscess.

When is Root Canal Treatment Necessary?

Some minor infections of the tooth pulp can be treated with using medical treatments, followed by a simple filling to fix a crack or minor tooth decay. But if the infection is severe, or has already resulted in an abscess, your dentist will probably recommend RCT, rather than extraction. Extraction is usually a last resort, or if the tooth is already loose.

What Does Root Canal Treatment Involve?

Most root canal treatments are completed over two or three separate visits to your dentist, with the first visit lasting up to 90 minutes. The treatment begins with removing any existing filling, active tooth decay, along with the infected tooth pulp, which includes blood vessels and nerves. The inside of the tooth and the root canals may then be shaped to remove any irregular surfaces which could prevent the tooth from being filled properly, or contain bacteria. The interior needs to be completely clean and free of bacteria and infection before it is filled with a special substance that prevents the pulp chamber and root canals from becoming infected again.

Only once the pulp chamber and root canals have been effectively sealed will the tooth then be closed with a proper filling. If the tooth shape and structure has been significantly altered by decay, the infection, and the treatment, a crown could be added later to not only restore the tooth’s shape but also to strengthen the tooth itself.

All dentists are trained to perform root canal treatments, and it is only under special circumstances that you might need to be referred to an endodontist. Some dental practices, such as Smile Solutions have their own onsite endodontists working alongside general dentists.

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