At the mention of root canal treatment, many people’s anxiety levels rise. But what actually is the procedure, why would you need one, and is it anything to worry about?
What is Root Canal Treatment?
Your teeth are made of the outer enamel, inner dentin, and a core chamber filled with nerves, cells and blood vessels. This inner chamber is called ‘the pulp’ and it extends down the roots, into the jaw bone, via narrow pathways called ‘root canals’. The tooth receives its blood and nerve supply from the jaw, through the root canals.
Some people call this area ‘the nerve’ of a tooth.
If a tooth has a history of disturbance, such as trauma, dental decay (caries), or invasive dental work, its pulp and root canals are at the risk of developing inflammation or infection. This can result in tooth sensitivity or toothache (pulpitis), referred pain, or various forms of infection (abscess). If a tooth has developed very advanced inflammation, or an infection, then it can often be saved by performing root canal therapy (endodontic treatment).
This involves creating an access cavity into the tooth’s root canal system, and using very fine instruments to clean out the inflamed or infected contents. The area is disinfected and sealed with a filling material called Gutta Percha. Finally, a permanent restoration (filling or crown) may be used to seal over the tooth.
Depending on the situation, root canal treatment can take anywhere from one to several visits to complete.