Root Canal Treatment: Pulpectomy

The term root canal actually refers to a structural feature of the tooth. At the center of each tooth is a hollow area which houses soft tissue, known as the pulp. This pulp is mostly concentrated in the crown, or top portion of the tooth, but has long canals, aptly named root canals.

Occasionally, a cavity on the outside surface of a tooth may cause the pulp to become irritated or infected. If left untreated, a serious infection of the jawbone may result, which can be extremely painful.

What is root canal treatment?

If a patient’s tooth appears likely to develop future infection due to decay, cracking, etc., a endodontist may advise a pulpectomy, sometimes referred to as a root canal or root canal treatment. A pulpectomy is an endotric treatment which attempts to treat or prevent an infection of the root canals or pulp chamber.

What occurs during a root canal treatment procedure?

In most cases, some inflammation and/or infection already exist in the tooth. In order to treat the infection and save the tooth, the endodontist will scrape out the infected pulp from the pulp chamber and the root canals.

Inflamed or infected tissue is removed to prevent further spreading of the inflammation or infection. The scraping out of infected pulp is done to remove bacteria, bacterial toxins, nerve tissue, and organic debris left over from the breakdown of pulp tissue. All these may cause inflammation and infection.

Next, the endodontist fills the cavity with Gutta-percha or a similar dental filling material and seals the opening. In most cases, the tooth gets a crown on top.

Filling and sealing the tooth is done in order to help prevent bacteria from re-infecting the tooth. It also prevents tissue fluids from seeping inside the tooth, becoming stagnant, and sub sequentially breaking down.

Inflammation and infection

Inflammation is caused by the body itself. Whenever bodily tissue is damaged or destroyed, the body initiates an ‘inflammation reaction’ as a natural defense mechanism.

One of the main reasons why tooth infections are so unusually persistent is because, once a tooth’s nerve tissue has started to degenerate, white blood cells cannot get through the root canals in order to fight the infection. Once the pulp is gone, the leftover hollow cavity in the center of the tooth provides a safe place for bacteria to thrive.

How painful is a root canal treatment?

Not as painful as you think. Modern root canal treatment typically uses local anesthetic, such as Lidocaine, to ease any discomfort.

If the tooth becomes abscessed, with a swollen area or ‘fluid-filled gum blister’ beside the tooth, it may be extremely difficult to administer anesthetic to the tooth. The pus in the abscess may contain acids, which counteract any anesthetic. If this is the case, the endodontist must cut directly into the tooth in order to drain the pus, and release some of the painful pressure associated with an abscessed tooth.

The pain of a severely infected tooth is usually much worse than a pulpectomy. Having a root canal should be viewed as a relief of pain, and not pain in itself. However, the nerve tissue inside a tooth can degenerate and die quietly and is not always a painful experience, either.

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