What's the purpose of root canal treatment? -

What does it do? / Why is it needed?  -  Explanations and details, including selected videos that answer these questions.

What is root canal treatment?

Root canal (also referred to as endodontic therapy) is a treatment process dentists use to resolve issues involving a tooth's "nerve space" (its pulp chamber and root canals).

What does it accomplish?

1) Having treatment provides a way by which problematic or unpredictable tissues and debris contained inside a tooth ...

  • This includes: a tooth's dead or dying "nerve" (pulp tissue), the byproducts of tissue breakdown, microorganisms (primarily bacteria) and any other debris that has been able to enter into the interior of the tooth.

2) ... are removed and replaced with materials that create a stable, predictable end result.

  • A cleansed inner tooth space filled in and sealed off with biologically inert compounds, usually gutta percha (a rubbery thermoplastic material) and paste-like sealer.

What's the benefit?

Once a tooth's endodontic therapy has been completed (and the tooth itself has been rebuilt), it can continue to function for you just as it always has.

It no longer contains live pulp tissue (a "nerve"). But from a standpoint of your experience that's a non-issue.

That's because dental pulp plays an important factor in tooth development. But once a tooth has fully formed its role is much more limited. It isn't required for essentially anything you associate with normal tooth function, and for that reason you'll never miss it.


Video series: What is the purpose of root canal treatment?

Videos that cover this subject.

We've searched the web and have selected the following videos as being especially good at covering the topic "What is root canal treatment?"

We point out what to look for.

With each video we include an outline of what we feel are the important details that it covers, or does an especially good job of explaining.

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 Watch Video What's the purpose of root canal treatment? - Part 1

Run time: 1 minute 20 seconds.   /   Type: Animation

Details about this video.

This is the initial segment of a 3-part series we created some years ago that outlines the goals and objectives of root canal therapy. While we do think each video does a good job of explaining its points, we wish the narration audio had been higher quality.

This first segment describes what part of the tooth is targeted for treatment. (Answer: The pulp chamber and root canals.)

Important points covered in the video -

The goals of endodontic therapy can only be met if all portions of the tooth's inner area are treated.

  • The level of difficulty of doing so varies according to the complexity of the internal anatomy of the tooth, which is a function of tooth type, number of roots, and number and condition of the root canals in each one.
  • In turn, treatment complexity directly correlates with factors such as the amount of appointment time needed (including number of visits) and the procedure's cost.

(Use this link for more information about this subject: How many root canals does your tooth have?)


 Watch Video What's the purpose of root canal treatment? - Part 2

Run time: 2 minutes 15 seconds.   /   Type: Animation

Details about this video.

This second part of our video series explains in general terms why the space inside a tooth might require endodontic therapy and what having treatment accomplishes.

Important points covered in the video -
  • There are a number of situations and conditions that can lead to a need for root canal therapy. But as varied as each of them are, they are all similar by nature of the fact that they will lead to an outcome where the tooth's pulp tissue ("nerve") will ultimately die.

    [A discussion covering many of the specific reasons why a tooth might require treatment can be found here: Reasons why teeth need root canal.]

  • It's the removal of this compromised tissue (and associated microorganisms and debris) that's one of the two fundamental objectives of endodontic therapy.

    Accomplishing this step (cleaning and disinfecting the interior of the tooth) is something your body would otherwise be incapable of doing on its own. And as a result, the tooth and surrounding tissues would continue to be adversely affected.

  • That means a key benefit of having root canal is that it can prevent dental emergencies (such as an acute tooth flare-up with pain and swelling). It is also the only way to clear up an infection inside a tooth (short of having this procedure, infected teeth must otherwise be extracted).

 Watch Video What's the purpose of root canal treatment? - Part 3

Run time: 1 minute 53 seconds.   /   Type: Animation

Details about this video.

This third video in our series explains the purpose of the seal that's created inside the tooth during the root canal process. (After cleaning out and disinfecting the tooth, sealing off its interior is the second basic goal of this procedure.)

Important points covered in the video -
  • The materials used to seal the tooth act as a barrier that stop contaminates from entering into or leaching out of it.

    That means the tooth will no longer be a refuge for, or a source of, irritants that can affect the tissues surrounding it. (The tooth and surrounding tissues complex is transformed from a unpredictable problematic status to a healthy predictable one.)

  • The integrity of the seal that your dentist creates directly correlates with the procedure's long-term success. That's because it's what prevents microorganisms and contaminates from reentering the tooth and reestablishing a diseased state and associated problems.
  • Just as important as the internal seal is the seal created by the final restoration that's placed in or on the tooth after its treatment has been completed.

    Seepage past a tooth's restoration is termed 'coronal leakage' (use this link for more information and a video). Preventing it is vital in helping to insure the long-term success of the treatment the tooth has received.

 
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