Understanding Root Canals

What does it mean to “get a root canal”? How can I prevent having to get one? If I need a root canal, what are the treatment options?

Root canals are actually hollow spaces, or canals, within the teeth. Every tooth has a root canal, and some teeth have more than one. These spaces are the inner layers of teeth, and it is here that the blood vessels and nerves of teeth exist. This inner layer of the tooth is called the pulp. The middle layer of a tooth is called the dentin, and the most outermost layer, the one that you can see, is called the enamel.

When you get a “root canal” by a dentist, what the dentist is actually doing is cleaning out the root canal of any infection. Once the infection is cleaned out, a filling is placed in the tooth. Much like regular fillings that you get on the outside of teeth, this root canal filling is placed inside the tooth in order to prevent any recurrent infection in the future. This infection will not go away on its own, and can only be taken can of by a dentist removing it. This is done either by getting a root canal, or removing the tooth.

What can cause a root canal? Most of the time, the need for root canal treatment arises from an infection, in the form of a cavity. Most cavities are small, and can therefore be taken can of by regular fillings. These cavities usually do not hurt. However, if a cavity becomes too large, and reaches the inside (pulp) of the tooth, a simple filling may not be enough, and a root canal may be needed in order to properly clean out this infection. In these cases, a toothache may develop, and the tooth with the infection can be very sensitive to hot and/or cold.

If the infection in the tooth is not taken care of fairly soon, the infection can become larger, sometimes spreading through the bone and gums. This can develop into a swelling and possibly an abscess. It is therefore very important to visit your dentist regularly in order to make sure you do not have any cavities, and if you do, to get them filled before they progress in size, preventing the need to get a root canal and crown in the future.

Article written by Dr. Chris Chapman a dentist at Whispering Pines Dental located at 690 Cooper Foster Park Road in Lorain Ohio.  Dr. Chapman is a member of the American Dental Association, Ohio Dental Association, and Great Cleveland Dental Society.  To reserve an appointment with Dr. Chapman, call 440-282-2023.  Check us out on facebook at www.facebook.com/whisperingpinesdental.

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