Understanding Disease & Treatment Options
To better understand endodontic disease and its treatment, a quick review of tooth anatomy is helpful. “Endo” is Greek for “inside” and “odont” means “tooth.” Endodontic treatment involves disinfecting damaged tissues located inside the tooth.
Nerves and blood vessels in the center of your tooth form a soft tissue called the dental pulp. During tooth development, this soft pulp tissue creates the hard tissues of the tooth— the dentin and enamel. After a tooth is completely formed, the pulp remains in tunnels or canals located in the very center of the tooth and root. Throughout your life, dental pulp serves two important functions:
1. It enables you to feel stimulus to the tooth caused by heat, cold, decay, or cracks;
2. It senses when bacteria from your mouth invade the tooth and it coordinates a defensive response against those invaders.
|Bacteria are normally present in your mouth and teeth at all times, even in teeth that have never had a cavity, trauma, or root canal treatment.|
Normally, the pulp defends itself against bacteria to prevent them from reaching the center of the tooth where the pulp lives. If the pulp is damaged by trauma or if too many bacteria penetrate into the center of your tooth (usually from a deep cavity, repeated dental procedures, or a crack), the pulp becomes inflamed and eventually dies as bacteria infect the canals in the center of your tooth. Your body then creates an abscess— a hole in the bone around the tooth root where cells from your immune system kill bacteria as they exit the root.
Root canal treatment removes the inflamed or infected tissues from the center of your tooth, allowing you to keep a tooth that would otherwise need to be removed from your jaw. If root canal treatment or removal of the tooth is not performed, the infected tooth presents a significant risk to your health caused by spreading infection. Although you may experience pain, swelling, or other signs of infection at any point during this disease process, it is more common that a person does not know this chronic disease is occurring until a problem is found during a checkup by a dentist.