Anatomy of a tooth located inside the root canal of the tooth is a soft tissue called pulp that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp provides nourishment and is important in the growth of your tooth. Once the tooth is fully developed, however, the pulp can be safely removed because the tooth is nourished by the surrounding tissue. If the pulp becomes inflamed of infected it must be removed if you wish to save your tooth.
Inflamation or infection of the pulp can be caused by a number of factors. Deep decay, numerous dental procedures on the tooth, a heavy blow to the tooth, or a crack or chip. An infection of the pulp can lead to infected supporting ligaments or an abscess. It is possible to have pulp damage even if there is no visible damage to the tooth.
Possible signs of pulp damage include swelling or tenderness in the nearby gums, pain, and prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold. Discolouration of the tooth may occur. Sometimes a tooth with infected pulp will show no symptoms.
What is involved in this procedure?
Step 1: Your endodontist will take an x-ray of your tooth and then administer a local anaesthetic.
Step 2: Once the tooth is numb a “dental dam” will be placed over it. The dental dam is a protective sheet that keeps saliva from getting in your tooth during the procedure.
Step 3: A small opening will be made in the crown of the tooth.
Step 4: The endodontist will use specialized instruments to removed the pulp from the root canals and the pulp chamber. The root canals and pulp chamber will be shaped for filling.
Step 5: The root canals and pulp chamber will be filled with a rubbery material called gutta-percha. This completely seals the root canals.
Step 6: A temporary filling may be used to close the opening in your tooth.
Step 7: An appointment will be booked with your dentist so that he or she can place a crown or other restoration on your tooth to return it to full function. Talk to your endodontist or dentist for more details of the procedure they plan on performing.
What is an endodontist?
An endodontist is a dentist who has received three years of advanced training in endodontic procedures and has limited their practice to performing only endodontic procedures. Dentists will regularly refer patients needing endodontic procedures to an endodontist because of their experience in dealing with both routine and difficult endodontic procedures. Endodontists are also experts in diagnosing the cause of oral and facial pain.
Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?
Most patients report that they are comfortable during endodontic treatment. After treatment the tooth may be sensitive and you may experience slight discomfort. However, your endodontist will give you instructions regarding which medications will relieve this pain. If you experience severe pain or pain that lasts for longer than a few days contact your endodontist.
Will my tooth need special care afterwards?
After the procedure you need to avoid chewing or biting with the treated tooth until you have seen your dentist to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth. Until this is done the unrestored tooth will be susceptible to fracture. Once the tooth has been restored you need only practice proper oral hygiene and the tooth should last as long as any natural tooth.
Are there alternatives to endodontic treatment?
There are alternatives to endodontic treatment which require the removal of the tooth. The extracted tooth must be replaced with a fixed bridge, implant, or removable partial denture. These procedures are often more time-consuming and will thus be more costly than endodontic treatment and the restoration of the natural tooth. As well, while they are effective, modern tooth replacements are still not as good as having your natural tooth.