You may have heard the dreadred root canal word before.  What comes to mind?  “Pain, ouch, hurts, never doing that again” are fairly stereotypical.  So why does a tooth need a root canal?  Let’s first examine what the tooth is made of.

WHAT DOES A TOOTH CONSIST OF?

A normal developed tooth has three layers: enamel, dentin, and pulp.  Enamel is the hard layer you see when you smile.  The dentin is a thin layer underneath the enamel.  And the pulp is the inner most layer, consisting of live tissues and nerve in a “canal” shaped space, and fed nurtients via the a blood supply from the heart.

WHY DOES A TOOTH NEED A ROOT CANAL?

When the pulp is sufficiently damaged or diseased, either via cavity, trauma, physical force, or root canal dental care by Bellevue dentistbacterial invasion, the pulp of the tooth needs to be removed and cleaned out.  Where the nerve and tissues once was, there is now a space beneath the dentin and in the roots that needs to be filled.  This once occupied canal space by the pulp is cleaned and shaped with fine instruments and medications.  Once this space is sufficiently cleaned and shaped, it is then filled with a material called gutta percha along with a sealer to make sure the gutta percha is sealed nicely.  A root canal is also known as an endondontic procedure.

WHAT IS INVOLVED IN A ROOT CANAL?

The act of removing the nerve and filling the canal space is in essence a root canal.  The dentist uses thin stainless steel nickel titantium files and filaments via rotary instrument to remove the nerve and living pulp tissues.  Periodically during the root canal treatment, the dentist may take xrays to measure and confirm the fit of the fine instruments and gutta percha.  A typical root canal is painless as the tooth is first numbed with local anesethetic. There are rare cases where the nerve is extremely inflamed and angry (i.e. called irreversible pulpitis); in these cases the pulp may be very difficult to numb as the angry nerve tissue actually counteracts and limits the effect of the local anesthesia (ie. harder to get numb).  Cases likes these are rare, and can usually be well managed with different anesthesia techniques.  So rest assured the typical root canal treatment is fairly straightforward using various methods. In fact, many of my patients have actually fallen asleep in the chair when I do a root canal!

Your dentist can discuss with you if the root canal can be performed at the office, or if the root canal treatment needs to be done by an endondontist (a specialist dentist who does only root canal treatments).

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A ROOT CANAL IS DONE?

After a root canal is completed, a crown is usually then placed to restore the tooth to full form and function, especially on posterior premolars and molars to prevent cuspal tooth fracture and breakage.  In some cases a filling will function as well.  Your dentist will discuss with you the appropriate restorative treatment to fully complete the root canal, go over post-operative instructions, and prescribe any medicaments as needed.

If you have any questions about root canal treatment for your family Bellevue dentist, contact us today at (425) 614-1600!

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