Dental Care

Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment is necessary to correct the inner core of your tooth when its nerve tissue has undergone degenerative changes. 

It's the only way to keep the tissues surrounding the root of the tooth free of infection and inflammation.

First, you'd probably like to learn just what a root canal is. 

You already know that it's a procedure that people dread, but it's also the name for part of your dental anatomy. 

The root canal is actually a space that extends along the length of the tooth root. 

It begins in the pulp chamber, which is beneath the outer layers of your tooth (the enamel and dentin) above the gum line.  As the roots of your tooth pass downward and into the gums, the root canal is the tiny canal through which the root passes. 

Each tooth has two canals or even more. But when a root canal procedure is performed, it involves the pulp above the gum line plus both roots: 

The dentist has to drill into the tooth, cleaning out the infected pulp as well as the canals thoroughly.  Hence the name "root canal treatment".  

Infection of the Root Canal

What are the processes that create an environment for inflammation?  When infection grows within the tooth structure, bacterial toxins multiply inside the pulp of the tooth. 

The pulp is where the nerve tissue is found.  It also contains other cellular tissue besides that of the nerves. It is the site of connective tissues that help to anchor your teeth within your mouth.

You will also find odontoblasts in the pulp of the tooth, which are recognized for production and nourishment of dentin.  Dentin is the layer of tooth beneath the enamel, and while its production throughout your life is slow, it is believed to help compensate for the natural wear and tear on your tooth enamel.

The entire amount of pulp-nerve and connective tissue plus odontoblasts -within all of your adult teeth amounts to less than a half centimeter!

Normally, your body sends white blood cells to and from the area in order to fight the infection.  Most of the time, they successfully control and defeat infection.  The white blood cells kill the offending bacteria and are carried away from the infection site. 

But when there is infection within the pulp of the tooth or in the root canal the body cannot send white blood cells. The area is too confined or closed off to let the white blood cells do their work. 

And as the blood and lymphatic vessels that supply life to the tooth become diseased, the white blood cells that are able to penetrate the area also begin to degenerate. 

Have you ever seen the television commercial that shows germs living happily in the lungs until an expectorant medication kicks them out?  That's exactly how the germs live inside the tooth nerve center -thriving and multiplying.

But the tooth environment is too closed off for any outside help to penetrate.  There's no way some heroic medication is going to come to the rescue.  Even if you take an antibiotic, it will help you only for about a month.

The bacteria eventually overcome your body's ability to defend itself.  The best scenario is that the infection will remain within the single affected tooth.  The worst case is that the bacteria will devastate your body's protective mechanisms. 

A painful, swollen tooth abscess will result.  Once you've got degenerated nerve tissue, bacteria, and organic debris within the tooth, together they can produce enough irritants so that your body sustains a full-blown systemic infection.

That's why your dentist is the hero who will rescue your tooth, even though it's hard to think of him (or her) like that before the procedure.

The Root Canal Treatment

Having a root canal treatment is really the only way to eliminate the infection that's wreaking havoc inside that one tooth -plus its adjoining tissues. 

The dentist drills down into the tooth and cleans it out by removing all infected and inflamed tissue -including bacteria and irritants- that are present in the tooth. 

In other articles on this site, we discuss root canal pain, the procedure itself, and other information about root canals. 


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