Guest Editor: Rita Hung DMD, MPH, MSD
I hope everyone had some good tricks and treats this Halloween! Now, let’s talk about something really haunting…. ROOT CANALS!
The word “root canal” is a scary sounding thing, but what is it exactly? Before you ever have teeth in your mouth, your teeth are forming deep under your gums. A nerve and blood vessel supply each of your teeth with everything it needs to grow. Once the tooth is fully formed and erupted, this supply helps the tooth defend against invaders and let you know when you have cavity.
But what happens when the cavity gets too deep?
When the cavity and bacteria goes into the pulp chamber (where the nerve and blood supply exist), this causes pain and irritation. Now, this is where an endodontist, or root canal specialist, comes to the rescue! The endodontist will remove the nerve (and the pain), clean out the root canal system and fill the roots to prevent future contamination. The nerve isn’t necessary after the tooth has already grown so the removal of it doesn’t damage the tooth. After the root canal treatment, a core build-up (or filling) and crown is placed to protect the tooth and keep you functioning for a long-time after!
What is this bump on my gum?
Sometimes, if the toothache has gone too long, the nerve will die and a bump will form on your gums. This could be a dental abscess or infection which causes destruction of the bone around the end of the root. (Of course you should visit your friend dentist to check it out and properly diagnose the problem.) But if it's caused by a dead nerve, a root canal treatment can be done to clean out the bacteria from the canals. After treatment, the infection takes several weeks to clear from the bone and gums and rebuild healthy surrounding tissues again.
Now, Root canals are scary… Aren’t they?
Realistically, a root canal treatment isn’t any more scary or spooooky than a filling. In both cases, you are completely numb for the treatment. Often times, the tooth that needs a root canal is in pain and a root canal treatment is done to remove the cause of pain. So really, root canals are friendly! (Contrary to popular belief!) Of course, no one really wants to get a root canal treatment so please remember to brush, floss and see the dentist for regular check ups to catch cavities early BEFORE they get to the dreaded nerve.