What is endodontics?
The word "endodontic" is composed of two Greek words, "endo" meaning "inside," and "odont" meaning "tooth." Endodontics is that branch of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases that arise from the soft tissues (the dental pulp) inside the tooth.
What is the dental pulp?
The dental pulp is a soft tissue that resides inside the tooth within the root canal space. This pulpal tissue is composed mainly of blood vessels, nerve fibers, and connective tissue, similar to tissues elsewhere in the body. The root canal space typically runs centrally inside the tooth from the end of the root, along the length of the tooth, and into the clinical crown. The primary functions of the dental pulp are to assist with the formation and nourishment of the tooth before and during its eruption into the mouth. After the tooth is fully formed, the dental pulp is not necessary to sustain its health, although the pulpal tissue, if present, continues to serve as a feedback mechanism to alert the patient if all is not well with the tooth.
What happens if the pulp becomes injured or infected?
If the pulpal tissue is injured and becomes irreversibly inflamed or infected, the tooth will need root canal treatment if it is to be saved. If left untreated, infection from the tooth can spread into the bone and surrounding soft tissues, causing pain and/or swelling. In cases of extreme dental infection, the eye can become swollen shut or breathing can become difficult as pressure builds against vital structures.
What signs and symptoms may indicate that root canal treatment is necessary?
Common signs and symptoms that indicate root canal treatment may be necessary include lingering sensitivity to hot and/or cold liquids, sensitivity to sweets, pain to biting pressure, spontaneous pain, throbbing pain, swelling and tenderness of the gums or jaw, or discoloration of a tooth. Endodontic disease also may develop without causing any symptoms.
What does the dentist do during the root canal procedure?
During the root canal treatment procedure, we remove the inflamed or infected pulpal tissue, carefully cleans, disinfects, and shapes the root canal space inside the tooth, and then fills and seals this space. It may take one or more appointments to complete the procedure. A protective restoration should be placed after root canal treatment has been completed in order to restore the tooth to function and help prevent tooth fracture.