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Endodontic therapy or root canal therapy is a sequence of treatment for the infected pulp of a tooth which results in the elimination of infection and the protection of the decontaminated tooth from future microbial invasion. Root canals and their associated pulp chamber are the physical hollows within a tooth that are naturally inhabited by nerve tissue, blood vessels and other cellular entities which together constitute the dental pulp. Endodontic therapy involves the removal of these structures, the subsequent shaping, cleaning, and decontamination of the hollows with small files and irrigating solutions, and the obturation (filling) of the decontaminated canals with an inert filling such as gutta-percha and typically a eugenol-based cement. Epoxy resin is employed to bind gutta-percha in some root canal procedures. Endodontics includes both primary and secondary endodontic treatments as well as periradicular surgery, as applied to teeth that still have potential for salvage.
The alternatives to root canal therapy include no treatment, or tooth extraction. Following tooth extraction, options for prosthetic replacement may include dental implants, a fixed partial denture (commonly referred to as a ‘bridge’), or a removable denture. There are risks to conducting no treatment such as pain, infection and the possibility of worsening dental infection such that the tooth will be no longer restorable (root canal treatment will not be successful, often due to excessive loss of tooth structure). If extensive loss of tooth structure occurs, extraction may be the only treatment option.
The most common causes of pulp damage or death are:
- A deep cavity
- A cracked tooth
- An injury to a tooth, such as a severe knock to the tooth, either recent or in the past.
How is a Root Canal Done?
These steps are:
- An opening is made through the back of a front tooth or the crown of a molar or pre-molar.
- After the diseased pulp is removed (a pulpectomy), the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned, enlarged and shaped in preparation for being filled.
- A temporary filling is placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits.
- The temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal permanently filled. A tapered, rubbery material called gutta-percha is inserted into each of the canals and is often sealed into place with cement. Sometimes a metal or plastic rod is placed in the canal for structural support.
- In the final step, a crown is usually placed over the tooth to restore its natural shape and appearance. If the tooth is very broken down, a post may be required to build it up prior to placing a crown.
How Long Will the Restored Tooth Last?
Your treated and restored tooth/teeth can endure forever with appropriate consideration. Since tooth Decay can in any case happen in treated teeth, great oral cleanliness and normal dental exams are important to prevent further issues.
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