Dental Care

Root Canal Procedure

What actually takes place when you have a root canal procedure?  It involves the dentist's process of taking care of the interior part of your tooth when the nerve tissue has undergone degenerative changes. 

If those changes involve inflammation and bacterial infection, tissues near the sick tooth can be affected.  A root canal intervention remedies the situation.

If the infection goes unchecked, it can stimulate a total-body inflammatory reaction that will make you very ill.

Tissue fluids can actually seep inside the tooth and stagnate, subsequently breaking down other tissues.

You are likely to end up in a persistent state of low-grade infection if the tooth is not attended to.  It can present itself in other areas of your body as an infection in your heart tissue, in your joints, your eyes, or in other areas of the body.

The Root Canal Procedure

Once the dentist has cleaned out the tooth, he moves on to the second half of the procedure -which is filling it back up. 

He fills it and seals it so that the interior of the tooth can no longer be breached by bacteria.  And once germs have lost their ability to colonize within the tooth, your pain and your risk of infection are averted.   

When the dentist seals the tooth, any debris that was not completely removed during the first part of the procedure will remain sealed off.  It will no longer be able to leak out and trigger an inflammation reaction. 

It's important to understand that your body does try to fight off this infection on its own, and often it will succeed for a long period of time.  Whenever it senses the invasion of any foreign agent such as bacteria, your brain instructs white blood cells, or antibodies, to travel to the site of the infection.  For a while your body wins the battle.

However, if the nerve tissue within the pulp of a tooth has been broken down by bacteria and the nerves themselves are damaged, there really is no more hope for the tooth.  The white blood cells cannot effectively reach the bacteria. 

And as the tooth becomes more and more affected, the tiny transport vessels -part of the lymphatic system- that bring white blood cells to the area are weakened, and even the white blood cells themselves lose efficacy. 

The bacteria remain happily ensconced within the tooth, in an area that reaches both above and below the gum line.  For a while, your body keeps the infection trapped inside the tooth. 

Eventually, however, in the worst-case scenario, a bacterial infection will quash your body's defense system.  The pain and swelling that develop are unbearable.  And that's how an acute tooth abscess develops. A root canal procedure can turn around this development.

Step by Step

Root canal procedure, as dreaded as it sounds, is not a painful intervention.  You are numbed the entire time by your dentist.  And your dentist will remove the bacteria and other tissue irritants that are causing your problems.

Exactly what does the dentist do?

  • First, he has to enter the interior of the tooth. He drills in through the crown.
  • Next, he cleans out all the infected organic tissue within the tooth. Although your root canal is far from over at this point, you should feel relieved to have the degenerated nerve tissue and bacterial matter removed from your mouth. And there's a fancy word for this process -extirpation.
  • Then the dentist prepares the tooth by shaping its interior. This is a process called debridement. He uses special lubricants and a bleach-like agent to clean out the tooth, and he clears it out all the way to the bottom-most area called the cementodentinal junction (CDJ). That's where the tooth dentin meets the cementum, a yellowish hard material that covers the tooth root.
  • We mentioned the bleach-like agent -most often a substance called sodium hypochlorite is used. The dentist floods your tooth with it. And then he inserts a dental tool called a paper point -these are actually tiny hand-rolled absorbent papers- to dry out the interior of the tooth.
  • Next, he fills the tooth. This procedure is called obturation. One of the most widely used materials for this is called gutta-percha, which is pink, sturdy, and kind of rubbery. It fills up the space completely in the tooth to obliterate the possibility of any future bacterial growth.
  • Last, he has to restore the tooth. Most often he fastens a post into the tooth and tops it off with a crown. Without a crown, the tooth remains vulnerable to breakage.

Now that you understand the steps of the root canal procedure, hopefully you will feel less worried about whether or not you need to have one.

There are other pages on this web site that will add to your knowledge about the process and enhance your understanding of just what happens inside your tooth. 


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