November 01, 2021

Root canals

Getting at the root of tooth trouble

If you have an infected tooth, the problem could be solved by removing the whole tooth and putting a dental implant in its place. But sometimes it's also possible to treat the infection and keep the tooth with a root canal.

Advances in dentistry have led to less painful root canal treatments; some say it's comparable to having a cavity filled. The procedure commonly requires 1 to 2 visits, but additional visits may be required in some cases.

A root canal can be done by a general dentist or an endodontist. Endodontists specialize in root canal therapy.

A: Trouble at the root

You might think your whole tooth is hard, like the enamel tops of your teeth (crowns) you see and brush every day. But within your tooth is a soft core known as dental pulp, which holds blood vessels and nerves. This pulp is in an area called the pulp chamber and in pulp canals that lead all the way down from the pulp chamber to the tip of the tooth's roots in the jawbone. The number of canals vary — canine and incisor teeth may have just one canal, while molars may have 3 to 4 canals.

Root canals are a treatment for those who have pulp inflammation, infection of the pulp or an infected pocket of pus (abscess), and sometimes for those with a fractured tooth.

Your pulp can become inflamed (pulpitis) from trauma, a fracture of the tooth or from a deep cavity when the bacteria start to infiltrate the tooth. This can lead...