Dental decay comes in many forms. Out of all types of dental decay, the easiest one to treat is caries on the surface of the teeth. If left untreated for too long, the decay will eventually penetrate deep into the tooth, reaching the pulp inside and eventually the root canals. Root canals are at the bottom part of the tooth, embedded in your gums. They are like narrow tunnels that the nerves pass through up to the tooth pulp chamber at the center of the tooth. Decay that has reached a tooth's roots causes extreme pain and requires immediate treatment to prevent total loss of the tooth.
Symptoms of a decaying root
- Your tooth is very sensitive to cold and heat
- Your gum begins to swell near the tooth
- Pimples or puss filled bulges appear on your gum.
- You suffer from frequent toothaches which require the use of pain relief medication
- When you bite down on something with the affected tooth it hurts
- Your tooth starts to turn black
How the root canal is treated
- The tooth and surrounding area is anesthetized.
- A special barrier, called a rubber dam, is placed around the tooth to prevent bacteria filled saliva from entering the tooth during treatment.
- The dentist drills the tooth to access the pulp.
- The dentist uses tiny files to clean and remove all signs of decay inside your tooth, including damaged nerve tissue.
- During the filing process, the dentist will periodically rinse the tooth of debris (in a process called irrigating) with a Clorox based solution to disinfect the exposed areas.
- An X-ray will be taken to determine whether the tip of the root canal has been accessed during the filing and cleaning.
- Your dentist then dries your tooth with paper, and uses a rubbery substance called gutta percha to fill the root canal. At this stage the dentist will continue in one of two ways: he or she may seal the tooth and prescribe pain relief medication for the coming days, thereby completing treatment; or he or she may prescribe antibiotic to clear up any infection remaining in the tooth and gum, and will schedule another appointment to seal the tooth once the infection is gone.
Your dentist will never diagnose a root canal treatment based on the look of your tooth alone. He will take X-rays to see how deep the decay has gone. Sometimes the tooth is not decayed at all, but root canal therapy—formally known as endodontic therapy—becomes necessary because of trauma caused to a tooth which has been hit very hard severally. Sometimes root canal treatment is recommended if your tooth is cracked or chipped, to prevent decay from making its way to the root and damaging your tooth. Whatever the reason, root canal therapy is very important to do if your dentist, one like Rick Chavez DDS, recommends it, as it may be the last opportunity to save your tooth.