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2112 F Street NW, Suite 203
Washington, DC 20037
11150 Fairfax Blvd. Suite 301
Fairfax, VA 22030

What is a Root Canal?

virtual model of a tooth with a root canal infection

What is a Root Canal?

Teeth can be a sensitive subject. When going to see a dentist, there are some things that people might not understand as far as terminology. In this post, we will be defining what a root canal is and how the procedure is performed.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal, also known as endodontic (meaning inside tooth) treatment, is the procedure the dentist will perform to remove the soft tissue (pulp) from inside the root canal of the tooth. The pulp is made up of blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves. During development of the tooth, the pulp creates the hard tissues of the tooth called dentin.

Once the teeth have developed and are mature, they can survive without the pulp. The tooth being able to stand on its own, makes a root canal possible. There are various reasons a root canal would need to be performed.

Step by Step Root Canal

There are three major steps in performing a root canal. Once the x-rays show a root canal is necessary and the anesthetic is administered, the next steps are as follows.

    • There is a small opening created in the crown of the tooth. They will use small tools to remove the pulp from the pulp chamber, then clean and shape the space in the chamber
    • Once the pulp chamber is empty and cleaned, They will then fill the pulp chamber with a material called gutta-percha and an adhesive cement to ensure the chamber is filled and sealed.
  • The final step is to have a crown placed on the tooth. The crown will help keep it sealed and allow it to function as a normal tooth again.

Most people express that the process is not uncomfortable since the tooth is numb during the procedure. The tooth could be sensitive when chewing for a few days after the procedure is finished.

Reasons for a Root Canal

One might wonder what creates the need for a root canal. The need for this procedure can be for multiple reasons. Here are a few common reasons for needing a root canal.

    • Decay in the pulp
    • Cracked or chipped tooth exposing pulp
    • Trauma causing the blood flow to be cut off to the pulp
    • Decay under the crown
    • Toothache
  • Infection due to previous decay (cavity)

The end result of having a root canal performed is to save the natural tooth without having the pain or sensitivity. The reason for saving the natural tooth is so it will remain where it is and have a more natural smile as it matches with the other teeth.

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