How Are Teeth Treated Endodontically?

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The tooth pulp is the living part of your tooth that is made up of connective tissues and nerves. If the pulp becomes infected, it's important to have the infection cleaned out so that it doesn't spread into the jaw bone and surrounding tissue. People with infected tooth pulp are at risk for dental abscesses, which can lead to serious conditions, like sepsis.

If your dentist has discovered that you have an infection in some tooth pulp, it's important to consider endodontic therapy, like a root canal. Read on to learn more about endodontic treatment methods and how they help.

What Is a Root Canal, and Is It the Only Endodontic Option?

A root canal is actually only one form of endodontic therapy. When people refer to root canals, they are talking about pulpectomies, or the complete removal of dental pulp from a tooth. If you have a very bad infection, then this is a good option to consider since the doctor will remove all the infected tissue. The doctor will then seal off nearby dental canals that link to the pulp so that infection doesn't spread.

The great benefit of root canals is that, while the living portion of the tooth is removed, you'll still be able to retain your natural tooth enamel. You'll be able to eat and talk naturally without getting a restoration, like a crown or an implant.

Besides root canals, you could consider endodontic treatments like pulp capping or pulpotomies. During pulp capping, your doctor will attempt to save as much pulp as possible. He or she may use a medication, like calcium hydroxide, to encourage tissue to heal over exposed pulp. If the pulp capping is successful, you may not need a root canal. Pulp capping is typically only recommended for early or mild infections.

Pulpotomies are similar to root canals, except only a portion of the pulp is removed in the coronal portion of the tooth. This means that, while the pulp may be removed in the enamel portion of your tooth, the pulp near the root of your teeth will be saved and sealed off from further infection.

How Do Dentists Clean out the Pulp Infection?

During endodontic treatment, your dentist will irrigate the pulpal canal to dissolve pupal tissue and kill pathogens. Believe it or not, dentists actually use sodium hypochlorite — also known as household bleach — mixed with sterile water for irrigation. Other irrigation agents, like saline or hydrogen peroxide can be used.

Once the pulp is irrigated and cleaned out with dental instruments, your dentist will likely use gutta-percha, which is a natural type of rubber from the Palaquium gutta tree, to fill the empty canals so any infection cannot progress. Then a canal sealer, like calcium hydroxide, is used to help seal and cement the gutta-percha inside the canals.  

Contact your dentist for more information about root canals or other forms of endodontic therapy.