Ask a General Dentist: Is a Tooth Dead After a Root Canal

Ask a General Dentist: Is a Tooth Dead After a Root Canal from Dennis Baik, DDS in San Jose, CAThere is no need to fear if your general dentist has recommended root canal treatment. This dental procedure is performed on millions of patients every year and is similar to a routine filling. It is a beneficial procedure that saves a tooth that has become infected or damaged. Many patients wonder if the tooth is dead after the treatment is completed. The answer to this question lies in understanding the anatomy of a tooth and the root canal process.

Anatomy of a tooth

Each tooth is made up of four layers of tissues. Three of these layers, including the enamel, dentin, and cementum, are hard substances that cover and protect various parts of the tooth. The fourth type is called the pulp, and it is a soft tissue that contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp chamber is responsible for helping the root of a tooth grow during development.

After a tooth is fully developed, it can survive without the pulp because it receives nutrients from surrounding tissues. For this reason, the tooth does not become "dead" following a root canal treatment.

4 steps to root canal treatment

A general dentist recommends root canal treatment as an effective way to save a tooth rather than removing it. Below are the four steps followed during a root canal.

1. X-rays

First, the dental professional takes X-rays of the tooth and surrounding bone. This provides a clear picture of the structure and condition of the tooth. After the X-rays are completed, a dental dam is placed to protect the site from saliva and keep it clean.

2. Pulpectomy

Using a small drill, an opening is created at the top of the tooth to access the dental pulp. Small files are used to extract the damaged pulp and shape the interior of the tooth. The dental professional may irrigate the tooth chamber to ensure the area is clear of infection. An antimicrobial solution is often used to kill bacteria in the tooth to prevent further infection.

3. Filling

Once the interior of the tooth is cleaned and dried, a material, called gutta-percha, is used to fill the tooth. The opening is then closed with a temporary filling. The patient schedules a follow-up appointment to allow time for healing and for a permanent crown to be made.

4. Permanent Crown

After several weeks, the general dentist places a permanent crown over the tooth. If the crown needs additional support, a metal post may be placed inside the tooth to make it more stable.

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Conclusion

Though a root canal involves removing the nerves from inside a tooth, the tooth continues to function as normal. The nerves play an insignificant role in a fully developed tooth; thus, the tooth is still alive. A root canal is a beneficial treatment that saves a tooth from extraction and allows a patient to maintain a healthy smile. A patient who practices good oral care and visits a general dentist regularly can expect a restored tooth to last a lifetime.

Request an appointment or call Dennis Baik, DDS at 408-676-5321 for an appointment in our San Jose office.

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