Root Canal

  • Medical Author:
    Steven B. Horne, DDS

    Dr. Steve Horne began his career at Brigham Young University obtaining his BA in English. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007 from the University of Southern California where his pursuit for academic excellence landed him on the Dean's List. He was recognized for his superior clinical skills and invited to help teach other dental students in courses on restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, and tooth anatomy. During dental school, he provided dental care for underserved populations of Los Angeles and Orange County, Mexico, and Costa Rica with AYUDA. Following dental school, Dr. Horne entered active duty with the U.S. Army and practiced dentistry at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for four years. During this time, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and received multiple Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and served as Company Commander. Dr. Horne currently practices full time at Torrey Pines Dental Arts in La Jolla, California, as a general dentist. Dr. Horne is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Horne is married to his wife, Christy, and they have a chocolate Labrador named Roscoe.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Why is a root canal necessary? (Part 3)

Trauma: If a tooth is hit with great force, the nerve can be severed at the end of the root and eventually die. This could happen immediately after the traumatic incident, or it may happen over many years following the trauma.

Fracture: A tooth that has become fractured may need a root canal if the fracture extends deep into the tooth and reaches the pulp. If a tooth has fractured in a way that doesn't leave very much tooth structure left above the gum line for a crown or other restoration, a root canal may need to be performed so a post can be placed down the canal of the tooth to help retain the restoration.

Resorption: Root resorption is a condition whereby the tooth structure dissolves away as a reaction to injury, trauma, tooth replantation, or aggressive tooth movement during orthodontics. Not all of the causes of resorption are fully understood. If the defect starts from the outside of the root and goes inward, it is called external root resorption. If the tooth dissolves from the middle or inside of the tooth and progresses toward the outside, it is classified as internal resorption. In either situation, the resorption can invade the pulp canal and the vital nerve and blood vessels contained therein. If this occurs, the tooth needs root canal treatment in combination with specialized conditioning and repairing of the defect quickly before the resorption destroys more tooth structure. The defect is typically repaired with a material called mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA). Resorption usually causes no pain and is usually only diagnosed using X-rays.

Repeated dental procedures: Dental procedures produce significant stress on a tooth. Sometimes repeated drilling may cause the pulp of a tooth to become inflamed. The tooth will need to be tested by a dentist to determine whether the inflammation is reversible or irreversible.

In the past, whenever one of these situations happened to a tooth, the only treatment option was to have it extracted. Root canal treatment is an extremely beneficial option that allows for most teeth to be saved in the mouth and used effectively for a very long time. Once the teeth are formed, they don't need the pulp to function properly. The pulp provides the tooth sensation to a stimulus like hot or cold, but it isn't required for the tooth to remain functional in a healthy mouth. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 5/24/2016
References
REFERENCES:

American Dental Association Division of Communications. "Getting to the root of endodontic (root canal) treatment The goal: preserving the tooth." Journal of the American Dental Association 132.3 (2001): 45-54.

Watkins, C. A., et al. "Anticipated and experienced pain associated with endodontic therapy." Journal of the American Dental Association 133.1 (2002): 45-54.

IMAGES:

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6. Root Canal Illustration Molar" by Jeremy Kemp

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