What is a Root Canal? The Spokane Dentist Blog

A root canal is one of the most common dental procedures referenced in tv shows and movies. But have you ever watched a scene wondering what exactly those characters are talking about? Read on to find out more!

Why does a patient need a root canal?

A patient needs a root canal when the nerve of a tooth has been affected by one of two things:

  1. By Trauma

A root canal will be needed when there is too much nerve damage due to accidental tooth impact. If a tooth has been knocked out, it might be able to be retained in the patient’s mouth by a root canal.

  1. By an Infection

A root canal is also necessary when a cavity has gone too deep. At this stage, the bacteria that caused the cavity has infected the nerves of the tooth, and a root canal is needed to get rid of the infection and prevent it from spreading.

The dental specialist that performs root canals is called an endodontist. Your dentist may refer you to one to have your root canal done.

How is a Root Canal Performed?

Underneath each tooth in our mouths is a pulp chamber and pulp canals. These structures provide the nerve and blood supply to the tooth. If the nerves have been damaged by trauma or an infection, your dentist will need to access the pulp chamber as part of the root canal. The pulp chamber will be accessed through the top of your premolars and molars. If the damaged nerve is underneath a canine or front tooth, it will be accessed through the tongue side of your tooth. Whatever the type of tooth, the root canal starts with a small hole in the tooth that reaches the pulp chamber.

The next step in the root canal process is going into the pulp canals and removing the damaged nerves and blood vessels. The interior of the tooth will be disinfected carefully and dried out. A canal filling material will then be used to fill in the pulp canals. The root canal will then be finished with a filling that is placed into the tooth to seal off the root canal access hole. In addition to the root canal, most patients will also require a full-coverage crown around the tooth that had the root canal. This is needed to surround and protect and restore the tooth, for both functional and cosmetic purposes.

As with most dental treatment procedures, a root canal due to infection can typically be prevented. With healthy oral hygiene habits and regular 3 or 6-month dental check-ups, tooth decay can be prevented or caught and treated early. This will help prevent tooth decay from spreading as deep as the nerves of your teeth. For our tips on best practices for oral hygiene, click the links below!


3 Best Practices for Good Oral Hygiene


Creating Healthy Dental Habits With Kids

Is it time for your next dental visit? Call our office now to schedule an appointment!

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