Years ago, diseased or injured teeth were usually pulled. But today, a tooth can often be saved through root canal therapy.
Endodontics (en-do-DON-tics) is the branch of dentistry that specializes in treating diseases or injuries to the dental pulp. Endodontists are dentists that specialize in treating diseases of, or injuries to, dental pulp. Your dentist may refer you to an endodontist to perform your root canal procedure.
The pulp is soft tissue inside the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves. When the pulp becomes infected or inflamed, treatment is needed.
Pulp infection and inflammation most often occur if you have:
All of these can allow bacteria to enter the pulp and cause infection and/or inflammation.
The infection or inflammation in the pulp can spread to the tissues around the root of the tooth. This can cause pain and swelling, but even if there is no pain, bacteria from the infection can damage the bone that holds the tooth in your jaw.
Without a root canal, the infection and damage will continue and your tooth most likely will need to be removed.
When a tooth is removed and not replaced, the teeth around it may shift. This can make it hard to bite, chew and clean your teeth. Areas in your mouth that are not cleaned well are more likely to have problems like decay or gum disease.
Root canal therapy can prevent these problems by saving your natural tooth. Also, root canal therapy is usually less expensive than a replacement tooth.
General steps of root canal therapy
Root canal therapy may involve one or more dental visits. Your dentist or endodontist will perform the necessary steps to save your tooth:
It is very important to follow instructions from your dental team and to attend all of your follow-up appointments.
When properly restored and maintained, a tooth with a root canal filling can last for many years. But, like any other tooth, it can become decayed or fractured or the tissue around it can get gum disease. Professional cleanings and regular dental exams will help keep your mouth healthy — whether you’ve had root canal therapy or not.