Poor oral hygiene leads to tooth decay and destruction, which can also end in permanent tooth loss. When someone doesn’t brush and floss their teeth regularly, they leave plaque on their teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance left behind from foods and drinks that eats through the enamel of the teeth.
When this happens, it leaves pockets where bacteria can grow and can also target the soft pulp inside of the tooth. If this process is allowed to continue, the tooth will deteriorate to the point where the only solution is to pull it out. Individuals who visit a dentist before the decay has progressed too far are candidates for root canal therapy.
Root canal therapy is a procedure where the tooth is cleaned and restored to stop it from falling out. This can involve cleaning out decay or treating an infection ravaging the soft internal pulp. The pulp is removed and scraped out, the site is sanitized, and the tooth is then filled with a synthetic substance or has the top replaced with a crown.
The first step to having a root canal is visiting a dentist to have the tooth examined. Sometimes treatment is necessary, and in other cases, the tooth might be treated with antibiotics and the installation of a crown. If the decay has progressed too far, then the tooth is removed, and the patient and dentist can discuss options for replacement.
Once the patient and dentist decide on a root canal, the mouth is numbed. A hole is drilled through the existing enamel of the tooth, and small tools are used to scrape out the pulp. This is done down into the root, hence the name. Because there are small, sometimes microscopic, holes in the tooth, a sanitizing agent is used to kill any remaining bacteria.
When the tooth is cleaned, a substance called gutta-percha is used to seal the tooth. It is pumped as a liquid substance into the tooth in layers that permeate all of the pits and holes. Once finished, it is allowed to harden, and the top is shaped to resemble a natural crown.