Deep inside each tooth is soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves to help the tooth’s root to form as a child develops. But, when your teeth have finished growing, you don’t necessarily need the pulp to have healthy, functional teeth.
If the pulp becomes infected, it endangers the structure of your tooth and health of your mouth. During a root canal, the infected pulp is removed, the area thoroughly cleaned, and then filled to provide the tooth with support.
The pulp of a tooth may be infected beyond repair due to:
You’ll undergo X-rays first if the dentist suspects you might need a root canal. The X-ray helps show where the decay is. When you come in for the root canal, you’ll be given local anesthesia to numb the affected area. A small hole is made in the tooth’s crown so that the diseased pulp can be removed. Finally, the tooth is filled with a substance called gutta-percha and sealed with cement. At a second visit, the tooth is given a permanent filling or a crown is placed over the tooth.
As an alternative to pulling the tooth, a root canal allows you to keep your natural tooth in both function and appearance. With a root canal, you can chew normally, and the tooth maintains normal sensations of biting and optimal force, even though it won’t feel hot or cold anymore. It’ll also protect your surrounding teeth from strain, pain, or excessive wear.
A root canal is usually performed in one or two visits and is relatively similar to a regular filling. The process does cause a little ache and discomfort but will provide relief in the long run. A root canal is usually covered with a crown, which will require another visit or two for fitting and application. The crown protects the tooth with the root canal and restores its natural appearance.
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