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Dentistry

Endodontics is the area of dentistry dealing with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the dental pulp. The pulp is the soft tissue that is located inside the tooth structure. It contains the nerves, arteries, veins, and lymph tissue, and is contained in the canals located in thin tube-like spaces in the roots and in the pulp chamber located within the crown of the tooth.

When the pulp is diseased or injured and unable to repair itself, it becomes infected. Left untreated, the pulp will die and become necrotic. Pus can build up at the root tip, forming an abscess that can destroy the bone surrounding the tooth. Endodontic treatment is the removal of the diseased pulp tissue, which will enable the body's defense system to repair the damage caused by the infection.

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Endodontic therapy (root canal) is a treatment modality that will save diseased or injured teeth. The alternative to endodontics is extraction. Typically, a severely decayed tooth or a tooth with a large filling will begin to ache. The pain might be intermittent at first and, over time, progress to a constant dull throbbing pain or a severe ache that might be felt on all the teeth on the affected side. Sometimes there is no pain and an abscess might be discovered by a routine x-ray.

Endodontic therapy normally takes two or three visits to complete. The following steps are involved in the treatment of the tooth:

  • A local anesthetic is used so the procedure will be pain free. The tooth will then be isolated by placing a rubber dam over it. This thin sheet of rubber provides a clean and aseptic working environment.
  • An opening is then made through the top of the tooth into the pulp chamber.
  • The pulp is removed from the pulp chamber and the root canals are cleaned, enlarged and shaped to a form that can be filled and sealed latter.
  • A temporary filling is placed in the opening of the tooth to seal it between visits. There can be some discomfort in the area of the tooth for a day or two following the initial visit. Occasionally the pain can be more severe.
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During the next stage of treatment, the temporary filling is removed and the root canals are filled and sealed. This completes the endodontic treatment. Following completion, the tooth will need to be restored. Due to the large amount of tooth structure usually lost from decay and old fillings, the preferred restoration is a crown. A post may be placed into the root to give additional structural support.

Previously, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you'd probably lose that tooth. Today, with this special dental procedure—root canal therapy—you may save that tooth. Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort involving one to three visits. Best of all, it can save your tooth and your smile!

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