Endodontics is a branch of dentistry which deals with diagnosing and treating the pulp that's within a tooth. The tooth pulp is a complex mass which is composed of nerves and blood vessels. A dentist who's a specialist in treating the tooth pulp is called an endodontist.
What are the common symptoms of endodontic problems?
- Severe pain the tooth and the gums. There will be a sharp pain while eating and brushing teeth.
- The gums may bleed.
- There could a release of pus from the gums.
- Bad breath.
- The gums may look inflamed.
- There could be a loss of jawbone, which can be found out only through X-rays.
- Hypersensitivity of the tooth to hot and cold foods.
However, in certain cases, no such symptom may be visible though the tooth has been infected. In such cases, careful examination by the dentist is necessary to determine the severity of the infection.
How does the pulp in the root canal get infected?
- In most cases, a root canal infection is developed due to cavities. The accumulated plaque and tartar on the surface of the teeth damage the enamel due to the acids that they liberate. The microbes make their way to the inner part of a tooth and infect the pulp, thereby causing a root canal infection.
- Sometimes, when a tooth has been damaged due to injury, the pulp of the tooth may be exposed to the microbes in the mouth. There is a chance of the pulp being infected by the bacteria.
- When an entire tooth has been knocked off from its socket in the jawbone, bacteria may infect the gums and the infection would progress on to the root of the tooth.
- There are chances of the tooth developing a root canal infection due to gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
What is root canal therapy and how is it performed?
A root canal therapy is a dental procedure where the infected nerves and blood vessels are removed from the root canal of a tooth. This therapy is a last resort option when no other treatment procedures can be used to restore the tooth to its proper functioning state.
The dentist carefully examines your tooth to determine the severity of the infection. Various screening tests are performed and x-rays are taken to check the underlying tissues and bone. The tooth will then be prepared for the root canal therapy.
The tooth will be cleaned thoroughly and saliva will be kept away from it during the surgery with the help of a rubber dam. The dentist then makes a small hole in the top of the infected tooth and inserts a dental file into it, so as to remove the infected pulp material. Files of varying diameters are used to thoroughly remove all the pulp and scrub the walls of the root canal, clearing out all the residual bacteria from the cavity. A jet of water is used to clear out the debris.
Why is it important to provide a restoration after a root canal therapy?
The dentist covers the hole with filling material after a small amount of medication has been introduced into the root canal. This is done to prevent further development of infections. After the pulp has been removed from a tooth, it would be weaker than before and the chances of it cracking or fracturing is high. Hence, teeth which have undergone root canal therapy are restored with the help of a dental crown. The crown would hold the tooth intact and give it the necessary strength, preventing it from failing.
Root canal therapy is found to have a high success rate. Though the tooth undergoing root canal therapy loses its sensation (because the nerves are removed), the procedure most often saves the tooth from being extracted.