February 28, 2006
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Root Canal?
It's a term that you probably first heard at a young age: the widely feared "root canal." You may not have experienced it personally, but rumors of its existence may have reached your impressionable ears before your first visit from the tooth fairy.
This misunderstood but advantageous procedure has been unnecessarily scaring children (and adults) for years. The Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) would like to help unveil the mystery that keeps the root canal cloaked in fear.
Root canal therapy refers to the treatment of the inner tooth, specifically the pulp tissue surrounding the root of the tooth. This internal tissue consisting of blood vessels and nerves is what becomes inflamed and infected when a root canal is necessary. The most common causes of inflammation or infection are deep cavities, repeated dental procedures, cracks or chips.
During root canal treatment, an endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the canal (a channel inside the root of the tooth), then fills and seals the space. After the procedure, the patient returns to his or her general dentist for crown placement or other restorative work.
Many people might think that this pulp tissue is a necessary part of the tooth, but in fact it's not. It does play an integral part in the growth and development of the tooth, but after maturity its function is only sensory. Unfortunately, it is this sensory function that puts most people in knots.
"Painful root canal treatment is a thing of the past, thanks to the expertise of today's endodontists and to the technologies they use," said Dr. Bruce Terry, a PDA member endodontist from Wayne, Pa. "Using the latest dental technologies, endodontists have transformed the standard root canal into modern microsurgery, increasing precision and effectiveness."
Digital imaging has replaced the traditional X-ray, allowing for a far more comprehensive image of the tooth. It is 30 times the size of a normal X-ray without as much radiation. With the application of the operating microscope, endodontists are now able to magnify the surgical area up to 32 times compared to the 3.5 magnification of surgical binoculars used previously.
Today’s ultrasonic, handheld instruments are one-quarter the size of traditional dental equipment, enabling smaller, better-contoured incisions and quicker, more aesthetic healing.
Tiny surgical mirrors allow endodontists to see each root channel with more clarity and microsurgical irrigators provide precise directional control of air and water, allowing teeth to be completely rinsed, dried and inspected before applying filling material.
"In addition to the technological advances, endodontists' skill in performing root canals and their advanced training in administering anesthesia result in a more positive experience, making root canal treatment more effective and predictable, said Dr. Terry."
If you need root canal treatment, ask your PDA member dentist for a referral to an endodontist in your area.View more information about root canal treatment.
Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.