WHAT IS THE DENTAL PULP?
The pulp is soft tissue inside the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves. It lies in a canal that runs through the center of the dentin – the hard tissue on the inside of the tooth that supports the enamel- the outer layer of tooth structure. The crown (the portion of the tooth visible above the gums) contains the pulp chamber. The pulp extends from this chamber down through the root canal to the tip of the root that lies in the bone of the jaws. Teeth have only one pulp chamber but may have more than one root and several root canals.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE PULP IS INJURED?
When the pulp is diseased or injured and unable to repair itself, it loses its strength. The most common causes of the pulp dying are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity requiring large fillings, or traumatic injuries to the tooth, all of which may allow bacteria and their products to enter into the pulp.
WHY SHOULD THE PULP BE REMOVED?
If the injured or diseased pulp is not removed, the tissues surrounding the root of the tooth can become infected, resulting in pain and swelling. Even if there is no pain, certain substances released by bacteria can damage the bone that anchors the tooth in the jaw. Without treatment, the tooth may have to be extracted.
REMOVING A TOOTH CAN CREATE PROBLEMS
There are downsides to losing a natural tooth. When a tooth is removed and not replaced, the nearest teeth may begin to shift from their normal position. This may cause the teeth to become crooked or crowded, which makes biting and chewing more difficult. Crooked or crowded teeth are more likely to have gum disease because they are harder to keep clean than straight teeth. A replacement tooth (an implant or bridge) is usually more expensive than endodontic treatment and can involve more extensive dental procedures on nearby teeth. A natural tooth is normally better than an artificial tooth.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT WHEN HAVING A ROOT CANAL?
A root canal procedure is a painless procedure that is usually done in one visit. The pulp or nerve is removed from the tooth and the canals, in which it resides, are shaped and cleaned. The canals are then filled with a material called gutta percha that seals the canals from bacteria and recurrent infection.
In some cases a root canal may need subsequent treatment following the initial procedure. Some roots have irregular shapes and orifices that could warrant additional treatment. Occasionally, the existing infection outside the canals may not heal completely. In these instances the tooth would need a retreat done by your general dentist or endodontist at a later date.
Following completion of the root canal it is essential to cover the tooth with a crown. This is done to prevent fracturing of the tooth and to restore the tooth’s original shape and strength.