Root Canal Treatment
What is root canal treatment?
Root canal therapy refers to the process by which a dentist treats the inner aspects of a tooth, specifically that area inside a tooth that is occupied by its “pulp tissue.” Most people would probably refer to a tooth’s pulp tissue as its “nerve.” While a tooth’s pulp tissue does contain nerve fibers it is also composed of arteries, veins, lymph vessels, and connective tissue.
Dr. Ahmed Elgazar is a dentist specialized in Root canal treatment and other dental diseases. Visit his dental offices in Tustin and Anaheim in Orange County CA to learn more about the best treatment options for you.
Where precisely in a tooth is its nerve?
Teeth are hard calcified objects but their inner aspects are not completely solid. Inside every tooth there lies a hollow space which, when a tooth is healthy, contains the tooth’s nerve tissue. Dentists use the following terms to refer to various portions of this nerve area
The pulp chamber.
This is a hollow space that lies more or less in the center of the tooth.
The root canals.
Each tooth’s nerve enters the tooth, in general, at the very tip of its root(s). From this entry point the nerve then runs through the center of the root in small “root canals” which subsequently join up with the tooth’s pulp chamber.
What is the function of a tooth’s nerve tissue?
Initially a tooth’s nerve tissue plays an important role in the formation and development of the tooth. Then, once the tooth has formed, the function of this tissue becomes one of helping to preserve the tooth’s health and vitality. The nerve tissue keeps the organic components of the tooth’s mineralized tissues (dentin and enamel) supplied with nutrients and moisture. The nerve tissue also produces new tooth structure (reparative dentin) as is needed so to help to wall off and protect the nerve from insult or injury (such as advancing tooth decay).
A tooth’s nerve tissue does provide a sensory function but this role is probably different from what you expect. Under normal circumstances the nerves inside our teeth provide us with very little information. Yes, when activated by extremes in pressure, temperature, or severe insult (such as a cracked tooth or advancing tooth decay) teeth do respond with a painful sensation. But under normal circumstances the nerves inside our teeth remain relatively “quiet.”
At this point you might be thinking that if you push on your tooth with a finger or close your teeth together you will feel a pressure sensation. Because of this you might assume that that sensation must come from the nerve inside the tooth. Well, in reality, that sensation comes from the nerves found in the ligament that binds the tooth to the jawbone, not from inside the tooth itself. This implies then, from a standpoint of the normal functions we perform with our teeth, that the presence of a live nerve inside a tooth is somewhat academic. If a tooth’s nerve tissue is present and healthy, wonderful. But if a tooth has had its nerve tissue removed as a part of root canal treatment then that’s fine too. You will never miss it.
Signs and Symptoms of Root Canal
If you have an infection of the pulp, you may not feel any pain at first. But if it is not treated, the infection will cause pain and swelling. In some cases, an abscess will form.
Your tooth might need a root canal if:
- It hurts when you bite down on it, touch it or push on it
- It is sensitive to heat
- It is sensitive to cold for more than a couple of seconds
- There is swelling near the tooth
- It is discolored (whether it hurts or not)
- It is broken
To determine whether your tooth needs root canal treatment, your dentist will often place hot or cold substances against the tooth. The purpose is to see if it is more or less sensitive than a normal tooth. He or she will examine the tissues around the tooth and gently tap on the tooth to test for symptoms.
You also will be given X-rays of the tooth and the bone around the tooth. The X-rays may show a widening of the ligament that holds the tooth in place or a dark spot at the tip of the root. If either of these is present, your dentist probably will recommend a root canal procedure.
Your dentist may need more information about the tooth. He or she may use an electric pulp tester. This hand-held device sends a small electric current through the tooth. It helps your dentist decide whether the pulp is alive. This test does not cause pain or a shock. You may feel a tingling sensation. It will stop when the tester is removed from the tooth.
An electric pulp tester should not be used if you have a cardiac pacemaker or any other electronic life-support device.