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Root Canal Therapy

What is a root canal?

Underneath your tooth's outer enamel and within the dentin is an area of soft tissue called pulp tissue. While a tooth's pulp tissue does contain nerve fibers, it is also composed of arteries, veins, lymph vessels and connective tissue. Each tooth's nerve enters the tooth at the very tip of its roots. From there, the nerve runs through the center of the root in small "root canals," which join up with the tooth's pulp chamber.

Why do I feel pain?

When the pulp becomes infected or inflamed due to a deep cavity or fracture, the blood supply to the tooth may be lost and the tooth pulp may die. Damaged or dead pulp causes increased blood flow and activity in the tooth's cells. Pressure may build within a tooth that cannot be relieved, causing pain that is commonly felt when biting down, chewing or consuming hot or cold foods and drinks.

Why might I need treatment?

Without treatment, the infection will spread and bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate, possibly causing the tooth to fall out. Pain usually worsens until you are forced to seek dental attention.

What is root canal therapy?

Root canal therapy is a procedure that removes the damaged or dead pulp. The canal is reshaped and filled with gutta percha, a rubber-like material, to prevent recontamination of the tooth. The tooth is then permanently sealed.

Are there other options besides root canal therapy?

The only alternative to root canal therapy is to extract the tooth; however, this alone can cause the surrounding teeth to move, resulting in a bad bite. Though a simple extraction may be perceived as less expensive, the empty space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which ultimately can be more costly than root canal therapy.

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