Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy, also known as endodontic therapy, is a procedure that allows patients with teeth that have suffered severe decay or trauma to keep their natural teeth. There are a few misconceptions about root canal therapy that cause people to be nervous about the procedure, and we would like to dispel some of those myths. At D. Ian Bell, D.D.S., we are passionate about patient education and believe that you will feel more confident about any procedure that you may need if you understood the basics of it beforehand.
What is a root canal?
When decay or trauma has affected the root of the tooth, it is usually too late to save the tooth with something as simple as a filling. Instead, we will have to perform a root canal to remove the root and other internal portions of the tooth. To accomplish this, we will numb the area around the tooth using a local anesthetic, like Novocain, making certain that you are fully numb before beginning the procedure. We also offer a variety of sedation options, like nitrous oxide, to help calm your nerves and give you a nice calming sensation.
Once we are certain that you are comfortable, we will begin the process of removing all decay from your tooth the same way we would deal with a cavity. We will use a drill to remove the decay from your tooth and to drill through the top two layers of your tooth – the enamel and the dentin. Once past the dentin, we will remove the pulp and the root of the tooth. We will rinse the interior of the tooth with an antibacterial solution to ensure that any decay-causing bacteria present are killed, and fill the now empty tooth with an inert substance that is called gutta-percha. We finish a root canal the same way we finish fillings; using the tooth colored composite filling material.
The Layers of a Tooth
It is important to understand that the tooth is made up of 3 layers and the root; some of the layers can become infected and only require a filling to repair, whereas other layers require a full root canal to save the tooth.
The outer-most layer of the tooth is called enamel. Enamel is what makes our teeth appear white and shiny, and is the hardest layer of our teeth. Enamel is the protective layer of our tooth, and it’s the first line of defense against decay.
Under the enamel is a very thick layer known as dentin. Dentin provides the vast majority of the hard structure of our teeth and is yellowish in color. As we age and our enamel is eroded, the yellowish color of the dentin will sometimes alter the coloration of our teeth. If dentin or enamel is compromised by infection, we will often be able to treat the problem with a filling.
The third layer is the pulp, which is a fleshy, “alive” portion of the tooth. The pulp has the root at its core. If decay reaches the pulp or the root of the tooth, we will need to perform a root canal to save the tooth.
If you have any questions or concerns please call us today at (425) 883-8333 to schedule an appointment.