Endodontics is the discipline of dentistry involved with the treatment of infected teeth. The most typical scenario occurs when decay encroaches upon the center of a tooth which is filled with nerve tissue and blood vessels. As decay is filled with bacteria the tissue inside the tooth becomes infected causing extreme pain. Another clinical situation that occurs is after a traumatic event and a tooth or teeth become fractured exposing the nerve chamber.
Treatment typically includes access to the center hollow “pulp chamber” of the tooth, filing and shaping of the canal, decontamination of the pulp chamber and finally filling the pulp chamber with a rubbery plastic material called gutta percha and a sealer-cement. Many root canals can be completed in one visit.
If a tooth is very infected sometimes a medication called calcium hydroxide is placed into the pulp chamber at the first appointment to help fight the infection. Only after the infection has been controlled is it safe to finish the root canal treatment.
As the tooth is no longer “alive” after a root canal it dries out and becomes brittle. Typically a crown is indicated to restore the tooth back to function.