More commonly known as root canal treatment, endodontic therapy is performed when a tooth’s nerve becomes infected and is designed to allow patients to preserve their tooth. Without endodontic therapy, dentists would have to extract teeth with infected nervous systems; Fortunately, root canals maintain tooth structure so other teeth don’t slip out of alignment and cause more serious jaw problems. Because endodontic therapy saves the natural tooth, patients do not need an artificial tooth.
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Endodontic therapy is simply the process of removing the infected, injured, or dead pulp from the root system of your tooth. Within the hard layers of each tooth is the root canal system which is filled with dental pulp. The soft dental pulp is made up of nerves and blood vessels that help a tooth grow and develop; But when deep cavities allow bacteria to enter the pulp and damage the pulp, a tooth abscess can develop. Unfortunately, when the pulp becomes infected, it must be removed to treat the pain and swelling associated with the abscess. Without treatment, the infected pulp can lead to serious oral health problems.
Root canal treatment is a common treatment that can be performed by your dentist or endodontist. Endodontists have completed a postgraduate specialty program in endodontics; therefore they are highly qualified to perform root canals or any endodontic treatment of the dental pulp and dental nerve.
There are 7 basic steps involved in endodontic therapy:
- Your dentist will numb your gums in the area of the damaged tooth.
- A rubber dam is placed around the affected tooth to prevent bacteria from saliva from entering the treated area.
- Your dentist reaches the infected root canal system and pulp through an opening he makes in the tooth.
- The damaged pulp is removed and cleaned with fine dental instruments. The root canal system is enlarged.
- Your dental canal is cleaned, filled and sealed.
- The opening that your dentist has made in the tooth is closed with a temporary or permanent filling.
- Follow-up treatments ensure that your tooth regains its natural look and feel.
After root canal treatment, many patients notice some sensitivity in the first few weeks. However, severe pain and swelling are uncommon, so patients with these symptoms should check with their dentist or endodontist to make sure there are no complications.
In general, endodontic therapy can be completed in one or two appointments. Patients should know that treated teeth are still prone to cavities and gum disease after endodontic therapy, so good oral care is still very important. However, with regular brushing and flossing and routine dental visits, treated teeth can last just as long as untreated teeth.