Endodontics is the branch of dentistry concerning dental pulp and the tissues surrounding the roots of a tooth. “Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.” Endodontic treatment, also known as root canal treatment, focuses on treating the soft pulp tissue inside the tooth. Endodontics’ primary focus is to save damaged or infected teeth. Cleaning, shaping, filling, and sealing teeth are the major components of endodontics.
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What is a Root Canal?
Root canal treatments have earned a reputation as something to be avoided if possible. It’s true, it’s better not to have one, like any major dental or medical procedure. However, a root canal serves a very beneficial purpose – to save your tooth. Although root canal procedures aren’t “fun” they enable you to keep your original tooth. Root canal treatment is recommended when there is an infection deep within the tooth. The pulp inside the tooth can get infected with bacteria due to injury or because of an untreated cavity. If treatment is delayed long enough the tooth may become infected to the point that it needs removal. If Dr. Hemphill believes he can save the infected tooth he will recommend root canal therapy.
Our Root Canal Process
- Dr. Hemphill starts the process by administering a local anesthesia to the tooth and surrounding area making sure it’s completely numb before starting the procedure. After the tooth and surrounding area are fully numb, a dental dam is applied. A dental dam is a thin sheet of rubber that covers the infected tooth. This allows Dr. Hemphill to concentrate on the specific tooth and also provides a sterile environment to reduce the risk of re-infecting the tooth from bacteria in the mouth.
- Dr. Hemphill will need to gain access into the infected tooth’s nerve space. He will use a dental drill to make a hole that extends through the surface of your tooth into its pulp chamber. It’s through this opening that he will perform the procedure. With back teeth, the access cavity is made directly through the tooth’s chewing surface. The access opening is made on the tongue side with front teeth. When creating the access cavity, Dr. Hemphill will also remove all tooth decay, and any loose or fragile portions of the tooth.
- The next step involves the cleaning and shaping of the interior of your tooth. Cleaning removes nerve tissue (live and dead), as well as bacteria, toxins, and other debris harbored inside the tooth. Shaping is the process where the tooth’s canals are enlarged so they have a shape that’s ideal for the procedure’s final step – filling and sealing. Dr. Hemphill takes great care and attention to only remove as much internal tooth structure as necessary. Tools called files that look like straight pins are used to clean and shape the sides of the canal. Dr. Hemphill may use up to six different file sizes until the canal is perfect. During the filing process, the canal will be irrigated making sure to flush out and carry away any debris.
- The success of a root canal depends on the elimination of micro-organisms from the root canal system to prevent reinfection. As mentioned, during the cleaning and shaping, Dr. Hemphill will also be irrigating the tooth. The tooth is not irrigated with water. It’s vital to use a solution that will clean and disinfect the tooth to avoid any possibility of leaving any bacteria present in the sensitive interior of the tooth. Dr. Hemphill uses the best solution in endodontics called QMix™. This solution is the most effective and is less inflammatory than other solutions available.
The final step of the root canal process is filling and sealing the tooth. This is called, obturation. Once the interior tooth has been thoroughly cleansed and properly shaped, it’s ready to be sealed. In some cases, Dr. Hemphill may want to place the filling material immediately after he’s finished cleaning the tooth. In some instances, he may feel it is best to wait about a week before filling it. If he thinks it’s best to wait, he will place a temporary filling in your tooth to keep contaminants out until your next visit. When he fills the tooth he will use a root canal filling material called gutta percha. It’s a rubber compound that is shaped like a cone. The size of the cone exactly matches the dimensions of the root canal files used in the cleaning and shaping phase. In order to create a solid, uniform mass inside the canal a sealer (a thin paste) is applied to the gutta percha cone before it’s placed into the canal.
After filling and sealing your tooth, Dr. Hemphill will place a filling which seals off the access cavity created at the beginning of the procedure. Your root canal is complete, but you may need to return and get a permanent restoration.