Now that we are experts on all the different parts of the tooth, we can continue on with our discussion on dead or dying teeth. Why does a tooth die? Usually one of two things happens. The first thing that can happen is that you get a cavity that is so big, it goes through the first two layers of tooth and is touching the nerve(see here to review all the different parts of a tooth). The tooth HATES this, and usually dies. The second scenario is if you break a tooth. If it breaks or cracks down to the nerve, it also HATES this and usually dies. When either one of these two scenarios happens, if there is enough tooth left to keep the tooth, your West Seattle dentist Dr. Christine Kirchner will usually recommend the tooth getting a root canal.
A root canal, or an endodontic treatment (we call them “endos” for short), is when a dentist who specializes in endos, called an endodontist, removes the nerves from your tooth. I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would I want my nerves removed from my tooth? One word: pain! Once those nerves get damaged, they cause a lot of pain to you. You will want to get them out of there ASAP (not to mention that fact that that bacteria causing infection can cause damage to both the tooth and the bone surrounding the tooth by causing what’s called an abscess). Here’s how it’s done:
Dr. Kirchner will take an x-ray of your tooth. If the nerve is affected by decay or a break, she will send you to an endodontist. Once you get there, they may take another x-ray just to confirm what Dr. Kirchner saw in her x-ray. If they confirm that the tooth is on its way out due to infection or a break, they will proceed with the root canal. They start off by getting you numb (which you will LOVE because you won’t feel any pain anymore). Then they will make a tiny hole in the top of your tooth, and use some special tools to pull the nerve out. Your tooth only has one pulp chamber, but it can have more than one root and many nerves in each root canal. Your endodontist will have a special microscope that helps them see in the tooth and make sure that all of the decay and nerves have been removed. Once they’ve gotten everything out of there, they will shape and smooth the roots and pulp chamber so they can put a filling in there. They will then stick biocompatible filling material in the roots, called gutta-percha, which fills up the root canals and seals the roots at the bottom so no bacteria can enter and wreak havoc again. They will then put a temporary filling on top and send you back to Dr. Kirchner to get a crown put on top. Why a crown after all of that? Haven’t you been through enough? The reason behind topping with a crown is that now that your tooth doesn’t have any way to get nourished, it will become brittle. A crown will help protect it and maintain its functionality in the mouth.
Have you cracked a tooth or have one starting to cause you pain? Call Dr. Kirchner today so she can take a look and get you out of pain and back into working order! For more information on root canals, check out this page.