Root canals are tiny passageways that branch off from beneath the top of the tooth, coursing their way vertically downward, until they reach the tip of the root. All teeth have between one and four root canals.
Many tooth problems involve infections that spread to the pulp, which is the inner chamber of the tooth containing blood vessels, nerves and other tissues. When the infection becomes worse, it can begin affecting the roots. A traumatic injury to a tooth can also compromise the pulp, leading to similar problems.
A diseased inner tooth brings a host of problems including pain and sensitivity as the first indications of a problem. However, inside a spreading infection can cause small pockets of pus to develop, which can lead to an abscess.
Root canal therapy is a remarkable treatment with a very high rate of success, and involves removing the diseased tissue, halting the spread of infection and restoring the healthy portion of the tooth. In fact, root canal therapy is designed to save a problem tooth; before the procedure was developed and gained acceptance, the only alternative for treating a diseased tooth was extraction.
Root Canal Procedure
Root canal therapy usually entails one to three visits. During the first visit, a small hole is drilled through the top of the tooth and into the inner chamber. Diseased tissue is removed, the inner chamber cleansed and disinfected, and the tiny canals reshaped. The cleansed chamber and canals are filled with an elastic material and medication designed to prevent infection. If necessary, the drilled hole is temporarily filled until a permanent seal is made with a crown.
Most patients who have root canal experience little or no discomfort or pain, and enjoy a restored tooth that can last almost as long as its healthy original.
Tips For How To Help Avoid Having To Have A Root Canal
- Brush twice daily. Sounds simple, but far too many adults and children skip this step at night. Brushing your teeth before bed should be just as automatic as turning off the light.
- Floss once daily. Skipping the floss is like only washing 70% of your body when you shower. This doesn’t just contribute to bad breath – it also gives root-damaging bacteria a place to hide and thrive!
- Avoid hard and/or crunchy foods such as hard candies and carrots. Both of which cause cracks that allow bacteria to enter your root system.
- Easy on the ice! Many people are tempted by the cool, fresh taste of ice at the end of a beverage. But chewing on ice can easily fracture, crack or break a tooth or filling! Once that happens, bacteria have an easy route into the nerve center of your tooth.
- Wear a mouth guard at night and while playing sports. If you are a grinder or clencher, make sure that you wear a night-guard to protect teeth from fractures, which eventually can expose the tooth’s roots. Also, mouth guards are an important protectice piece of equipment for nearly every sport, from soccer to snowboarding. Also, they can make you look really cool, like a serious athlete.
- Avoid acidic drinks and foods like soda and citrus juices. These beverages break down enamel and then saturate the tooth with sugar for bacteria to feast on!
- Have regular dental checkups and cleanings. A cracked tooth found early can often be spared root canal treatment.
- Get your tooth pain checked out immediately! Any pain is a sign that something is amiss in your mouth and ignoring it will only make treatments more serious down the road.