What is a root canal?


For many, even hearing the phrase “root canal” can induce anxiety, let alone hearing that you may need one. For a variety of reasons, society seems to have decided that the root canal is the most painful and terrifying procedure known to humankind. However, this is largely rooted in a number of misconceptions. In fact, the root canal is a highly routine dental procedure, one that can actually prove highly effective in alleviating pain and getting your mouth back in tip-top shape! Read on to find out more about what, exactly, a root canal is.

What is a Root Canal - Dentists Weddington, Matthews, Wesley Chapel, Waxhaw NC | Serene Dental Spa


Root canal treatment is a procedure that allows dentists to save infected teeth from being extracted. In order to understand what a root canal is, it’s important to understand exactly how teeth are constructed. The American Association of Endodontists, or AAE, has written a helpful guide to understanding root canals, complete with diagrams. According to the AAE, “Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp.” The pulp is the part of the tooth that is sensitive to pain and discomfort, given that it contains a great deal of nerves. While tremendously useful when your adult teeth are developing, in fully-developed adult teeth the pulp does not play all that much of a role.


When you get a cavity, what that means is that the upper layers of the tooth have decayed. Sometimes, this allows infections to penetrate past the hard top layers of the tooth, through the pulp, and into the root of the tooth, which is the place where the tooth connects to the gum. When the pulp and the root are infected, this can be extremely painful. Before the modern root canal was perfected, the only course of action was often to extract the entire tooth. This meant either that you now had a gap in your teeth, which can be cosmetically undesirable as well as inconvenient, or that you were forced to wrestle with replacement teeth, which can be painful and burdensome.


However, the root canal changed all that. Root canals are fairly straightforward processes. The main goals of a root canal are to clear out the infection and to make sure that infection doesn’t happen again.


First, patients undergoing root canals receive local anaesthesia, to ensure that the tooth is entirely numb to any treatment going on. Then, using highly specialized tools, the doctor cleans out the infected and unhealthy pulp from the inside of the tooth and the root. Adult teeth do not actually need the pulp to stay healthy and pain-free – the pulp is primarily useful during childhood, when new adult teeth are coming in. This means that the pulp doesn’t need to be preserved. The pulp is then replaced with a permanent, infection-proof material, and a crown is then often cemented on top of the tooth, to make sure that infection doesn’t get in again.


In short, all a root canal really is is a way to get infection out of teeth without taking the whole tooth out. Not so scary, when you think about it! Contact our local dentists office to schedule your appointment today.

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