May is Root Canal Awareness Month
The American Association of Endodontics declares May as Save Your Tooth Month. Previously known as Root Canal Awareness Month, the annual campaign is designed to call attention to the importance of saving natural teeth. Despite the fact most people see each other in the real-world wearing masks that cover their pearly whites, dental health remains of paramount importance. What’s more, when you’re on Zoom, your smile is on display for all the all the virtual world to see.
How to Save Your Natural Teeth
When teeth become decayed, the first line of dental defense is to fill them, or, when necessary, crown them. When neither of these options are viable, the next best step is to perform a root canal. This endodontic procedure is preferable to an extraction, because it preserves the tooth. The reason dentists can remove the root of a tooth without killing the associated tooth is because the root structure is important as the tooth grows. Once it has matured, the root is no longer necessary because the tooth is supported by surrounding tissue. In some cases, a dental implant may become necessary. But, for the purposes of this blog post, we will examine root canal procedure.
Root Canal Treatment
Inside of a tooth, under the white enamel and a layer called the dentin, is soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue and creates the surrounding hard tissue of the tooth during development. The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root.
Why Endodontic Treatment is Necessary
Root canal therapy is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay due to bacteria, multiple dental procedures on the tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, trauma to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain, and/or lead to an abscess.
Signs of pulp damage may include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.
Root Canal Procedures Explained
Endodontic treatment can often be performed in one or two visits, depending upon the source of the problem and the complexity of the tooth. The first step is to examine, test, and x-ray the tooth. The area is then numbed with local anesthetic to reduce or eliminate pain. Next, a rubber dam is placed to isolate the tooth from the rest of the oral cavity, creating a barrier to prevent bacteria and saliva from entering the tooth during the procedure. We then use a handpiece to open access into the pulp chamber and root canals. Very small instruments are used to clean and shape the pulp chamber and root canals to remove the nerve, blood vessels and connective tissue, and to prepare the canals for the root canal filling material.
If the tooth lacks sufficient structure to hold a restoration after the root canal, a core build-up or post will need to be added inside of the tooth. This provides a solid foundation for a crown and fills the hollow space that was created to access the pulp and canals of the tooth. A crown or other restoration is then placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to its full function.
So, don’t fear a root canal. Saving natural teeth is a worthwhile endeavor!
About Dr. Fred Wong of Blue Ocean Dentistry in Glendora, California
Dr. Fred Wong and the staff at Blue Ocean Dentistry use the latest available dental treatments, equipment, and materials – all of which make a marked difference in our patients’ experiences. We are committed to helping our patients achieve optimal dental health. We creatively combine dental science and artistry — which can literally redesign your smile. Since even a subtle change in your smile will help you to project self-confidence and high self-esteem, we love helping you feel good about yourself. We deliver the finest dental care at the most reasonable cost and accept most dental insurance plans as well as CareCredit. For more about the dental treatment plans we offer or to schedule an appointment, call today (626) 852-6999.