What is a root canal?

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When you visit your dentist because of dental pain, you may be told you need a root canal treatment. This treatment is done to avoid losing a permanent tooth. Answering the question “What is a root canal” is the first step in understanding why you need one and how it can help.

It is helpful to know about the anatomy of a tooth so you can better understand the root canal procedure. The top layer of your tooth is called enamel, and then there’s a hard layer called dentin. Under these two layers is the pulp, which contains connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels. Pulp can become infected and inflamed due to various causes, necessitating a root canal procedure. While the pulp is what provides necessary nutrients to the roots of teeth during developmental stages, removal doesn’t mean your tooth cannot survive. The surrounding tissue will nourish it after the pulp is removed.

During a root canal, your dentist will numb your tooth, and then proceed to make an opening in the crown of the tooth. Through this opening, your dentist will use special endodontic files and irrigation to clean out the infected pulp, then prepare the canals for the filling material, called gutta-percha.   Your dentist may decide to place a post in the canals of the tooth to provide additional support before continuing the procedure. A temporary filling is then placed in the opening in the crown until a permanent cap or crown is made and placed over the tooth.