Root Canal Treatment

Endodontic Disease

Treatment of Endodontic Diseases

Endodontic diseases are diseases that impact the inside of the tooth or the tooth’s root canal (the portion of the tooth’s center that extends down into the root of the tooth). The innermost part of the tooth and tooth root canal contain dental pulp, which serves many important functions for our oral health.  When the hard protective outer shell of our teeth (the enamel) decays or is damaged by trauma to the tooth, it can leave the soft inside of the tooth or the root vulnerable to an overgrowth of unwanted microorganisms like bacteria. That bacterial overgrowth in the pulp can have several consequences to our health and wellbeing, which we will discuss in this article.

What is tooth pulp and what does it do?

As mentioned, the dental pulp is found inside the center of the tooth and is what keeps the tooth alive. Cleveland Clinic defines tooth pulp as “the soft, jelly-like center in the middle of your teeth containing nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue”. Tooth pulp has several purposes, including dentin and nutrient production, producing bacteria- fighting immune cells, keeping the tooth moist (prevents cracking, brittleness), and detecting changes in temperature and pressure to alert us something is wrong.

What happens when pulp gets infected?

When tooth pulp is infected, it causes inflammation and pain (commonly referred to as a “toothache”) and sensitivity to heat and cold. Special treatment is required in order to properly clear the infection, calm painful inflammation, and save or preserve the natural tooth. The tooth’s root extends down into the gum to help anchor it securely in your jawbone, which helps your teeth function properly. Diseases that impact pulp in the tooth or root canal can cause tooth and bone loss. Never ignore unexplained, persistent pain in the mouth or teeth, as it could be a sign of endodontic disease.

How is an infection in the pulp treated?

Infections in the pulp can often be treated by a common endodontic procedure in your dentist’s office called a “root canal”. When a person has a root canal procedure, the damaged or infected pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth. This stops the pain and sensitivity because when the pulp is removed, the nerves are removed so any discomfort can no longer be felt. After the removal of the pulp, the center of the tooth is thoroughly cleaned out, the pulp cavity is filled and resealed to prevent further infection. Root canals are the most common endodontic procedure.  If an infection in the pulp isn’t promptly or fully treated, it can spread beyond the mouth. This untreated infection can even be life-threatening in some cases, causing serious health problems including sepsis, sinusitis, a brain abscess, or meningitis.

What type of dentist treats diseases in the pulp?

In many cases, a dentist can treat basic endodontic disease. However, in some cases, a patient may be referred to an “endodontist”, which is a type of dentist who has two years of additional special training in diagnosing and treating endodontic disease. They focus on saving your natural teeth by repairing tissues inside the tooth and providing treatment of complex tooth pain. An endodontist may be needed to repair or remove injured tooth roots, for dental implants, or when other specialized treatments are needed to help save a diseased or damaged tooth or preserve the surrounding bone.  One such specialized endodontic treatment is called “apicoectomy”. During the apicoectomy, an endodontist will make a small incision in the gums in order to access the root of the tooth. Next, they remove the very tip of the root and seal the tooth to prevent further damage or decay and save the tooth. This minor surgical procedure is done under general anesthesia to help minimize discomfort for the patient.  To recap, endodontic diseases are diseases in the center of the tooth, or the pulp. Treatment for endodontic diseases is aimed at saving the natural tooth. General dentists can perform basic endodontic treatment, but an endodontist may be needed for more complex cases. Your dentist will know if you need to see an endodontist.  If you’re having a toothache or sensitivity, it is important to be evaluated. Call your Today’s Dental office today and make an appointment.

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