Root Canal, More Information

Root Canal, More Information

Root Canal

Root Canal Treatment, the Fears and the Facts

Root canal treatment has had a pretty bad rep in the past. “The most terrible pain in the world!” some have exclaimed, “I’ll get you for this!” others have shouted. These outcries and exclamations are unwarranted in our modern era. Perhaps prior to the discovery of anesthetics the procedure would have been painful…but no longer. What CAN be painful is what occurs if you do not get your tooth treated with root canal therapy. The term “root canal” itself is a bit of a misnomer. The root canal is (please see image above) simply that part of your tooth which contains the pulp and nerves. The root canal supplies much needed blood and minerals to the tooth, which keeps the tooth strong and healthy. It’s when that root becomes infected by bacteria that you may start feeling some severe pain; the kind of pain misapplied to the treatment of the infected root.

What causes the pain?

Alright, so, obviously the nerves in the body relay to us what is going on throughout our body. If, for instance, you burn your hand on the stove, it’s the nerves that will tell us. The tooth is no different. To break it down; when bacteria in your mouth eat through the outer layers of your tooth and make it to the nerve, you may, at that point consider the root and nerve to be infected. Part of the pain that occurs with an infected root is that, because of the infected root, there is more fluid in that part of your tooth/jaw. This buildup of excess fluid causes quite a pressure build-up which in turn causes a lot of pain. The nerve itself is also dying due to the bacterial infection, while this is happening, pain will result.

Another painful part of an infected root (and what commonly accompanies it) is an abscess on the base of the root. This is a small pocket that forms when the bacteria and fluid starts to dissolve (due to the bodies reaction to the bacteria) the bone around the base of the root. This adds to the pressure (and pain) that you feel when the root is infected. The abscess can grow…and grow, and quite possibly get pretty large. This is not a good thing (obviously) and you should not wait for this to happen.

Now onto the treatment.

Root Canal Treatment

The treatment for an infected root is also commonly referred to as “a root canal.” Though it may be more accurate to state “I’m getting root canal therapy (or treatment).”

Root canals are a pretty straight-forward procedure nowadays. The simplicity of it really is, remove the infected pulp/nerve from the root of the tooth. Clean the inside of the root (disinfect, remove decay etc.), and lastly, seal the tooth again. Due to the removal of solid tooth structure to clean out the nerve, the doctor will usually want you to get a cap, or crown, put on the tooth to protect it. One of the reasons the doctor will want you to get a crown is that, after a root canal is delivered, the tooth has no more blood and minerals going to it, and therefore is more brittle, and prone to breaking or cracking. As mentioned before, it is pretty common for an abscess to accompany an infected root. When this is the case the doctor may have to prescribe you some type of antibiotic to reduce the infection and swelling down to a point where he can open the tooth up. When you have swelling and abscess connected to the infected root, it becomes very difficult to get you numb. The doctor may isolate the tooth he will be working on with something called a rubber dam. Which is basically a thin rubber shield that isolates just the tooth being worked on, in order to prevent debris and saliva getting into the open tooth during treatment.

Every so often, it can occur that there is decay very close to the root of the tooth that is causing sensitivity, when this occurs the doctor can use a temporary filling material with medication for the nerve, monitor the tooth for a couple of months and save the tooth from needing root canal therapy. When he determines the nerve was not/is not compromised he will put a permanent filling on that tooth.

I hope this helped to clear up some questions!

Stay healthy my friends.


Minovi Dental

Blogging about DC and Dentistry. Born and bred in the DC area.