Endodontics (Root Canal): The Secret To Saving Smiles
Endodontics, which is commonly known as root canal therapy, is the branch of dentistry that focuses on diseases and injuries of dental pulp, the soft tissues inside every tooth. Its purpose is to save a natural tooth, heal infection, and to relieve pain.
Did you know that more than 14 million teeth receive endodontic treatment each year? By choosing endodontic treatment, you are making the decision to keep your natural teeth, which is really important as it gives you the ability to…
- chew a variety of foods so that you don’t have to give up your favorites and so that you receive a full range of nutrition – no compromising due to discomfort and inability to chew
- bite cleanly and confidently – no avoiding foods, especially in public, which allows you to relax and enjoy meals in the company of friends and colleagues
- speak clearly and without pain
- laugh with ease and confidence – no more covering your mouth due to the embarrassment of discolored teeth or pain.
Beneath the hard enamel exterior of your tooth, there is a canal that contains what we call “pulp” – the soft interior of the tooth. Pulp is made up of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Because the pulp does most of its work during tooth development, its job is pretty much done by the time you are an adult. That’s why, fortunately, adult teeth can survive just fine without pulp. They do this by drawing nutrients from surrounding tissues. And that’s why, when tooth pulp becomes inflamed or infected, often the choice of treatment includes removing the remaining pulp and along with it, the infection.
Reasons for infection and inflammation include:
- Deep Decay – When many people think of cavities, they think of them as only affecting the surface of a tooth or tooth root. But what can happen if the decay is not detected and removed and the resulting damage repaired, is that the decay will continue to spread, reaching the interior of the tooth. When it does, the infection begins to involve the nerve and surrounding tissues, causing inflammation, further infection, and pain.
- Tooth Fractures – Many of us have fine vertical cracks on the surface of our teeth. They’re called craze lines. They are very superficial and are not serious – they don’t affect the health or function of teeth and require no treatment. But when the cracks are fractures – actual breaks in the hard enamel that protects the inner tooth pulp – that’s where root canal therapy comes in as the sensitive nerve is exposed to bacteria in the mouth, food, and varying extreme temperatures (when you drink hot coffee or eat cold ice cream, for example). The result is pain. When a tooth fracture originates in the tooth root, it may not be noticeable to you until infection in the bone or gums sets in.
- Trauma/Injury – If a tooth sustains trauma (for example, impact during sports or severe decay), the tooth nerve may die. When this happens, the pulp inside the tooth needs to be removed and replaced with a filler to save it and prevent tooth loss.
When these things happen, you may experience several symptoms and may not be able to tell what tooth is involved:
- severe pain when chewing – you may find yourself chewing on only one side of your mouth, or worse yet, modifying your diet to soft foods only
- pain that becomes worse when you bite – you may find yourself avoiding food as much as possible
- sensitivity to cold and hot foods and drinks – again, you may modify your diet to the exclusion of nutrients and development of dehydration
- sore gums which may be a constant irritant and bring continual discomfort
- discolored gums
- small pimple-like bumps on your gums due to infection.