Root Canals

What is a Root Canal and why do I need it?

The term ‘Root Canal’ scares people because there is so much misinformation and mythology perpetuated over time.  So, let’s set your mind at ease here with an honest description of the feared ‘Root Canal’.

The tooth is the hardest bone in the body.  Decay enters through the grooves on the top of the tooth or from areas like in between the teeth where it is easier for bacteria to take shelter.  The outer shell of the tooth, called Enamel, is very mineralized and hard but the inner 4 mm of ‘Dentin’ is softer and then you have the ‘Pulp’ or nerve.  Once decay passes the hard exterior shell, it will rapidly advance inside the softer ‘Dentin’ and eventually into the ‘Pulp’.  This is a point of no return where the only solution is to remove the infected nerve.  This is what is called a Root Canal.  Sometimes an antibiotic is needed to help fight this infection while the tooth is being treated.

Let’s go through the steps of a ‘Root Canal’ to help you realize that all the exaggerated accounts of this very helpful and safe procedure are completely false.

Imagine that every bone in the body has nerves and blood supply.  That is exactly what a tooth is; a hollow, hard shell of bone with nerve and blood supply (remember our friend the ‘Pulp’?) on the inside.

We need to clean out the infected ‘Pulp’ that lies inside the shell of bone and so we prepare a little hole just as if we were doing a filling except we go a bit further.  Now we can actually physically remove all the infection inside the tooth and clean it out with disinfectants.  Once it is sterile, we proceed with filling the now hollow interior, with a special plastic material and a paste.

You now have a tooth that is technically ‘dead’ but what people forget, is that this dead tooth is surrounded with a very much ‘live’ ligament.  So the satisfaction of chewing and enjoying food is still there.  Yes, the tooth has no nerve once a ‘Root Canal’ is done, but it has a surrounding ligament that feeds information back to the brain about pressure while chewing.  What a brilliant system, wouldn’t you say?

What happens after I have had a ‘Root Canal’?

Once a tooth is devoid of the blood supply, it basically has no nourishment and no moisture.  It becomes brittle and can fracture under the load of chewing.  This is why we recommend that most every root canal be additionally treated with a Crown or ‘Cap’.