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Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment usually involves the removal of the tooth’s pulp, a small thread-like tissue that was important for tooth development. Once removed, it is replaced with materials that seal off the root canal from its supporting structures. Years ago, disease or injured teeth were often extracted. Today, even if the pulp of one of your teeth becomes injured or infected, it often can be saved through root canal (endodontic) treatment.

When the pulp is diseased or injured and unable to repair itself, it loses its vitality. The most common causes of pulp death are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, or traumatic injury to the tooth. Bacteria and its products can leak into the pulp, eventually causing it to lose vitality. If not treated with a root canal, an abscess can form at the end of the root, 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 removed.

Treatment usually involves from one to three visits. During treatment, your dentist removes the diseased pulp. The pulp chamber and root canal(s) are then cleaned, shaped, filled and sealed off from the bone surrounding the root. In case of considerable tooth structure loss, a metal or plastic rod or post may be placed in the root canal for structural support. After this treatment, it is usually recommended that a crown be placed.

As long as the root(s) of a treated tooth is nourished by the tissues around it, your tooth can remain healthy. However, the tooth could still become decayed, so good oral hygiene at home and regular dental exams are necessary to help prevent both tooth decay and periodontal disease.

(American Dental Association 2009)