What is a root canal?

Beneath the tooth enamel and dentin, there is soft tissue known as pulp. The pulp of the tooth contains nerves, connective tissue, and the blood vessels — the “roots” of your tooth.  When pulp tissue becomes infected, your family dentist performs a “root canal” to remove the infected or damaged tissue.

Trauma to your tooth may cause damage to the roots of the tooth, even though the tooth may not show signs of being damaged.

If an infection in the canal of the root of the tooth is left untreated, it may result in pain or an abscess.

A root canal, otherwise known as “endodontic treatment,” is a relatively painless and effective procedure which enables your family dentist to save a damaged tooth.

A root canal helps you retain your teeth, often for the rest of your life.

 

What is involved in the root canal procedure?

Once your dentist determines that you need endodontic treatment or a root canal:

* The dentist or endodontist administers local anesthetic. (We have a variety of options.)

  • The entire root area is carefully cleaned and disinfected. The endodontist uses small instruments to clean the pulp from the pulp chamber, the “root canals” of the tooth.  This prepares the root canal to be filled with a bio-compatible material. Typically, endodontists use gutta-percha, which has a rubbery texture. This is cemented into the cavity to seal it.
  • Usually, the tooth is given a temporary filling which will ensure the integrity of the tooth while your dentist builds your crown or other restorative structures.  
  • When the crown is completed, the temporary filling will be removed and your dentist will then protect the tooth either with a crown, or by placing a post inside the tooth which will serve as a structure to hold the restorative covering in place.
  • Once the permanent structure is in place, your tooth will be good to go!

 

Dr. Keith Phillips is a Board Certified Prosthodontist with over 25 years of expertise as a specialist, including cosmetic dentistry, family dentistry, and sedation. He is a contributing author to the book “Implant Aesthetics” which is the “go-to-how-to” resource for other dentists working in this field.

Dr. Phillips is an Affiliate Associate Professor at the University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Southern California. He lectures nationally and internationally, has extensive textbook and professional journal publications, and is a former Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Distinctive Dentistry serves patients in the greater Tacoma area including Gig Harbor, Federal Way and Puyallup, WA. Our office is located at 5615 Valley Ave. E., Tacoma, WA 98424 — just off the freeway.