When the nerve of a tooth becomes infected or abscessed from deep decay, a tooth gets cracked, or a tooth receives trauma – sometimes the only option to a tooth extraction is endodontics, which is commonly called “root canal therapy”. During a root canal the tooth is numbed and then the unhealthy nerve is removed. Medication is then placed in the tooth to treat the bacterial abscess (infection). After the infection is removed and treated a filling is put in place of the unhealthy nerve.
Endodontic Surgery (Root Canal Surgery)
Some people consider endodontic therapy, or root canal treatment, an oral surgery in itself. Since this doesn’t involve an incision but an opening in the tooth into the pulp chamber, the dental profession typically reserves the term ‘root canal surgery’ for the apicoectomy procedures that sometimes becomes necessary. The apicoectomy procedure involves ‘peeling’ back a portion of the gum tissue over the root(s) that have failed to become disinfected and pain-free after traditional endodontic therapy. The troublesome root tip is shaved, shortened, or removed entirely and the bottom end of the root is re-sealed. Laser disinfection of these sites is also helpful to hasten the healing period and make for a more uneventful healing period.
A root canal procedure is also called an endodontic treatment. “Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” means “tooth”. An endodontic treatment literally means “inside tooth” treatment. Ever wondered how a root canal treatment works? You’re not alone. We get a lot of questions about what goes on a root canal procedure, but for you to understand what goes on in a root canal procedure, you need to understand certain parts of the tooth.
Inside the tooth, under the enamel (the white part or crown of the tooth that is visible and above the gum line) and a hard layer (dentin) is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp has all the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue and extends from the crown to the tip of the roots where it connects to tissue surrounding the root. The pulp is very important during the growth and development of teeth. Once teeth are grown and fully mature, it can survive without the pulp because they get nourishment from the tissues surrounding them.
A root canal procedure is needed when the pulp gets infected. It can be because of deep decay, cracks in the crown or repeated dental procedures. Once it’s determined the infection is inside the tooth and the pulp is involved, the dentist will try to save the tooth by doing a root canal procedure. Instead of extracting the tooth and give you a long-term problem of gaps between teeth and tooth replacements, he will drain the tooth of the infected pulp and then fills the emptied space with biocompatible materials and seals it again. He will then restore the tooth with a crown to protect it.
"I am often asked, what Happens During Root Canal? After the tooth is numbed, a small opening is made into the tooth where the insides are cleansed and shaped. A rubber-like material called gutta-percha is filled into the tooth and the opening is then sealed with sterile cotton pellets and a temporary filling. After a couple of weeks, the tooth is typically restored and a crown is placed over the treated tooth for protection. If the tooth lacks sufficient structure, a dental post may be placed inside."
—Dr. Ted Reese