Life After Death: What happens during a root canal treatment


A root canal treatment is a rather drastic attempt to save an infected or thoroughly decayed tooth. It involves emptying out the tooth of its soft materials, which inevitably kills the tooth, and is only used when the soft tissues inside of the tooth have been compromised. But these dead teeth are not disasters waiting to happen, nor are they likely to be extracted soon; a root canaled tooth has got a lot of life left in it, and goes on chewing and biting as normal. Here is what you can expect during a root canal treatment.

Life After Death: What happens during a root canal treatment
Life After Death: What happens during a root canal treatment

What is a root canal treatment?

A root canal treatment is a conservative dental procedure that involves opening the tooth, scooping out the infected soft tissues, the dentine and killing the bit of the dental nerve in the tooth. Afterwards, the roots of the tooth are enlarged and the entire tooth is filled with a medicated tooth filling. This is allowed to take effect and you may experience swelling and discomfort as the medication takes effect. Once the medication is done, a special root filling, that fills up the entire tooth with composite resin will be placed. Depending on the extent of the damage, a crown maybe necessary, if not, a normal filling can fix up the tooth, or a post and core procedure may suffice.

This procedures kills the tooth, but does preserve it so that it can perform its function further, and so you can chew and bite with it as before, although it is more likely to fracture, as this tooth is no longer absorbing nutrients and replenishing its structure with minerals.

Extraction or root canal treatment?

Dentists always try and avoid extractions because they are very rarely necessary medically speaking, and because they are very problematic: they destroy the alveolus and lead to further tooth loss. Only if it is very necessary, and the tooth is doing damage and cannot be saved is an extraction performed. If there is any chance at all that the tooth will live on, or if the stub is not infected, then dentists will always opt for keeping the tooth and root canaling it.

Pros and cons

Compared to getting the tooth extracted, there are many pros (and some cons) of root canal treatments. The fact that the tooth is kept is the main one, as chewing function, aesthetic appearance and over all oral health is not affected. Further tooth loss is also kept at bay, as the alveolus is preserved and thus does not start to disintegrate. This can only otherwise be achieved if there is a tooth implant inserted after the extraction. The only con that I can see is that the tooth that is kept can become discoloured over time, and is brittle and suspect to damage and breaking apart. The root canaled tooth can also become infected again, but this is rare. Extractions are also somewhat cheaper than root canal treatments. 

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