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Years ago a tooth with a diseased nerve would have had very few options for treatment. Invariably, it would have been extracted to control discomfort and prevent infection. But today’s dental procedures are designed to preserve a patient’s dental health by avoiding the loss of natural teeth unless extraction is in the patient’s best interest. Root canal therapy was created to treat teeth, so extractions can be prevented, and a patient’s natural tooth saved. This helps to preserve the patient’s smile and bite in the long-term.
Inside each tooth is a nerve that runs like a thread from the tip of roots to the centre of the tooth. It supplies essential nutrients and blood to ensure that each tooth remains vital (alive). But, when a tooth is exposed to trauma or decay, the nerve can become damaged, diseased, and overtime it may die. However, it’s not just trauma and decay that can damage the nerve of a tooth; excessive clenching and grinding can also cause the nerves of teeth to become inflamed and hyper reactive to stimuli. If the forces on teeth aren’t balanced, the long term health of teeth can suffer either through uneven wear or ongoing distress to the nerves. Regardless of the underlying cause, root canal therapy is often needed when the nerve or pulp of the tooth dies.
Once the nerve of a tooth has died, infection quickly becomes a concern. You’ll need to talk with your dentist to decide whether you want treatment to preserve the tooth or you’d prefer to extract the tooth. If you choose root canal therapy, a small opening will be made in either the top (molars) or back of the tooth (front teeth). From there, your dentist will remove the nerve. During the process, any infection or necrotic tissues are removed and the canals (roots) are cleaned. A special material is then used to seal the root and either a filling or, if a large portion of the tooth has been removed, a crown will be placed to restore the tooth to natural form and function. Though no longer alive, the tooth may be sensitive for some time as the surrounding ligaments and bone heal from the original infection and treatment.
Living in the modern world has some pretty great benefits! Running water, the internet, and free public education to mention just a few. But as Calgary dentists, we definitely appreciate the amazing strides dental and medical sciences have taken in the last century. Today, having a diseased tooth doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need an extraction. Techniques like root canal therapy can help your to save your natural teeth and maintain your smile for years to come. If you have any questions about root canal therapy, contact us today!