What is endodontic (Root canal) treatment?
Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue and creates the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development.
The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root. The pulp is important during a tooth’s growth and development. However, once a tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp, because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures, or a crack or chip in the tooth.
Endodontic treatment will usually be performed in one visit and involves the following steps:
- The endodontist examines, performs diagnostic tests, takes a digital radiograph of the tooth and then administers local anesthetic. After the tooth is numb, the endodontist places a small protective sheet called a “dental dam” over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
- The endodontist makes an opening in the crown of the tooth. A microscope and small instruments are used to clean the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals and to shape the space for filling.
- After the space is cleaned and shaped, the endodontist fills the root canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called “gutta-percha”. The gutta-percha is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In most cases, a temporary filling is placed to close the opening. The temporary filling will be removed by your general dentist before the tooth is restored.
- Once treatment is completed with your endodontist, you must return to your general dentist to have a crown or other permanent restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function.