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Common Causes of Root Canal Issues
You have probably heard the term root canal, but what is it exactly? To put it simply, there are two major portions of each tooth: the portion you can see and the portion under the gums. The portion under the gums is the root, and the inside of this section is the root canal. While we usually think of bone when we think of teeth, it would be difficult for the body to carry nutrients through hard bone, so the inside of the root is filled with soft tissue called pulp, and the pulp resides in the root canal.
Why is root canal health important?
You may not know that there is a whole specialty branch of dentistry devoted to the health of the inside of teeth called "endodontics." An endodontist is particularly interested in the health of the insides of your teeth. If you are referred to one by your dentist, they will look at some of these factors to assess the health of your teeth:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold for long periods of time
- Tooth pain
- Tenderness to the touch
- Tenderness when chewing
- Issues with nearby lymph nodes
- Issues with nearby gum tissue
Of course, you should not wait for an endodontist referral to tell your dentist if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Root canals become necessary when the pulp becomes infected or inflamed (think swelling and redness). These are some of the most common reasons:
- Tooth injuries
Injuries can be either visible or invisible when looking at the tooth. Some visible injuries could include cracking and chipping, but the more difficult to notice injuries are the invisible ones. The outsides of teeth are strong, and sometimes the pulp can be crushed inside the tooth without affecting the hard bone on the outside. Invisible injuries can occur during physical trauma or sports.
- Tooth decay
Sometimes also called cavities or caries, tooth decay is the destruction of the outer enamel. An opening in the enamel exposes the pulp to bacteria, temperature and injury. The best "treatment" is to avoid tooth decay altogether with proper and regular brushing and flossing.
- Repeated dental procedures
This one may not be as much in your control, but it is important to be aware that repeated procedures on the same tooth can be a risk factor for inflammation and injury to the pulp. If you are concerned about this risk factor, make sure to speak with your dentist.
The endodontist will use a tool to form an opening in the enamel of your tooth. They then use tools to clean out the damaged or infected tissue within the canal, which is filled in with synthetic material. Once our teeth are fully mature, they no longer need the pulp to function, and the root canal can be safely filled with a biocompatible material; it won't trigger your immune system or cause further harm.