The root canal is the portion of the tooth that forms a canal within the core or center of the tooth. This area extends down into the jaw, where it acts much like the root of a plant or tree to draw up nutrients, minerals, and other things that are vital to a healthy tooth. If the root canal becomes infected, then the dentist will likely perform root canal therapy to clean out the harmful bacteria and restore dental health.
The root canal area becomes compromised when bacteria invades the pulpy middle part of the tooth that is protected by the hard enamel exterior crown of the tooth. This usually happens because of a cavity that gets too deep and pierces the wall of the tooth, allowing the infection that caused the cavity to continue down into the root canal. This is one reason why it is so important that you schedule regular dental checkups to examine for potential cavities. Otherwise, if you go too long between dental appointments, it is possible that a cavity can progress to the point that there is no other option but root canal therapy.
Another avenue that infectious bacteria uses to travel into the root canal is through the gums or bloodstream, so it is equally important to maintain healthy gums and good overall health. By following a recommended program of flossing and brushing, eating a wholesome diet high in natural vitamins and minerals, and drinking plenty of fresh water every day it is possible to avoid most dental health problems.
Because the root canal is also the location of the main nerve running up inside the tooth, procedures involving this sensitive area typically require sedation in order to ensure the comfort and well being of the patient. There are many options available to the patient in terms of pain management or anesthesia, and the dentist will work to make sure that the best possible type of painkiller or sedation is used.
During root canal therapy the dentist will drill or probe into the center of tooth in order to then use various tools to remove any bacteria or infected tissue or fluids. Sometimes dental antibiotics can be applied directly to the area to promote rapid healing and make sure that the infection does not linger or return. In severe cases the root canal infection may be so severe that the main nerve of the tooth or some other vital component is damaged beyond repair. In that kind of situation the dentist can extract the tooth and replace it with a synthetic crown.
After surgical procedures to fix problems in the root canal region the dentist will also usually prescribe a course of pain medications and antibiotics as needed, and then ask the patient to return for a follow up appointment to monitor the healing process. Most people experience mild discomfort after a root canal procedure and have to be careful about what they eat for a day or two, but for the most part modern root canal procedures do not have a long healing time and many people return to work the following day.