In ancient times, people believed that a mysterious creature known as the “tooth worm” caused tooth decay and toothache. The legend of the worm was so prevalent that cultures as varied as those in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Far East had their own versions of the myth.
One can only imagine the sense of dread and frustration that the ancients must have felt as the despicable critters bore through their choppers unseen, wreaking havoc in their wake. The worms, it was said, caused pain when they moved and bit their way around inside the teeth, and the ache only stopped whenever the creatures rested.
Early physicians recommended a variety of asinine remedies to try to draw out the tooth worm, one of which was to fumigate the teeth with smoke from burning hyosycamus and charcoal. The fume may indeed have provided sufferers temporary respite from the pain, as the hyosycamus is a narcotic plant from the nightshade family.
Most of the time, however, the treatments didn’t work, so doctors resorted to pulling the teeth entirely. It was during these times when the tooth worm — or at least what the tooth pullers thought were the tooth worms — saw the light of day. What were mistaken for worms, in fact, were most likely the dental nerves, the extraction of which would have certainly caused excruciating pain for patients who lived during a time when medical anesthesia was not yet available.
Then there was root canal treatment
We now know that tooth decay is not actually caused by tooth worms but by something more minute: bacterial activity. When tooth decay wears away a tooth’s white enamel surface and dentin, a soft tissue called the pulp becomes exposed to bacteria. The pulp is largely made of living connective tissues and blood vessels, but it also contains nerve networks. When these nerves become infected and the tissues become inflamed, pain is felt by the individual suffering from tooth decay. Aside from decayed teeth, however, pulp infection and inflammation can also be caused by a variety of other tooth defects, including trauma or injury to the teeth, faulty dental fillings and devices, and random fissures on the surface and inner layers of the teeth.
Fortunately, we no longer have to resort to questionable medieval treatments to address these problems. Nowadays, there are various scientifically sound dental procedures we can rely on when we develop tooth decay or suffer from teeth-related injuries. One of these procedures is the root canal treatment.
Formally known as endodontic treatment, root canal treatments have their origins in procedures dating back to the 17th century. Today, modern root canal treatment is instrumental to saving millions of people’s teeth every year. Endodontists all over the world use root canal treatments to treat the inside of the tooth when the pulp becomes infected or inflamed. The pulp is removed, and the inside of the root canal is disinfected and filled with a type of natural latex. These procedures will be explained in detail below.
Root Canal Defined:
- This procedure basically refers to a dental operation that would require the medical professionals to clean out the space in between the teeth along with disinfection and cleansing to prevent the further development of cavities in the teeth as well as tooth decay.
- This can also refer to the space in between the root of the tooth. It is a basic part of the naturally occurring space within the root of the teeth that houses the pulp chamber and connects the other more intricate parts of the teeth together.
What are the advantages of root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment becomes necessary when the root canal system, which contains the pulp, becomes infected and inflamed. Remember that an abscessed tooth can cause serious health problems. If left unchecked, the infection can spread to other areas of the jaw, neck, and head. The infection can also spread throughout the body, causing sepsis and triggering multiple organ damage. This can prove to be an extremely life-threatening condition. Any reasonable individual would do well to get immediate professional help when they experience endodontic infection during its early stages.
Often, badly-decayed and infected teeth don’t have to be removed completely. The fact that root canal treatment allows people to keep their original teeth is one of the most important benefits of this treatment. Furthermore, root canal treatments are also generally much more affordable than getting teeth replacement devices like dental implants.
Teeth that receive root canal treatment can continue to function like normal teeth. Aesthetically speaking, root canal treatments can even improve the appearance of decayed or damaged teeth because the application of dental fillings or dental crowns is necessary to protect the teeth being treated from future damage.
Some More Benefits of Root Canals
- The root canal is beneficial to a person because it houses the dental pulp which helps in the formation of the healthy teeth when a child reaches adulthood. Specifically, it starts helping in the formation 1 to 2 years after the formation of the teeth.
- This is why having a root canal is important because it also helps protect the dental pulp which will be having a significant role in the formation of new sets of teeth for the patient. If the dental pulp is damaged, it would spell a lot of trouble for the patient in terms of pain and discomfort.
- The dental pulp is possibly one of two or more main canals that can be found inside the root canal. Without the dental pulp, the formation of secondary teeth will not be possible. This is why it is important for us to take care of the root canal so that we would not have problems in terms of cavities as well as tooth decay in the future.
How is root canal treatment carried out?
One can think of a root canal treatment as a more extensive dental filling procedure. Although it can be painful because the endodontist will be working on infected and inflamed tissues and nerves, the procedure is done with anesthesia. The point of getting the treatment in the first place is to remove the infected pulp, which is causing the pain. Root canal treatments are also pretty straightforward, and they can be finished within one or two sessions.
The following are the usual steps followed by endodontists when doing root canal treatments:
- Anesthesia is administered to the patient to numb the tooth or teeth that will be worked on.
- The teeth is surrounded with a rubber dam to isolate it from saliva, which can interfere with the procedure and also contains oral microorganisms that can contaminate the operative site.
- An endodontic file is used to make an opening on the infected tooth and to reach the root canal system and the infected pulp.
- Fine endodontic instruments are used to clean the root canal system and to make it larger in preparation for the application of gutta-percha, the latex material that will be used to replace the pulp.
- Root canal pluggers are used to condense the gutta percha into the root canals. The latex is a permanent filling that will help protect the root canal system from infection in the future. The surface of the gutta percha is topped with a temporary filling, which will remain until the tooth receives its permanent filling or crown.
- If it is determined that a dental crown needs to be installed, the patient may be referred to a prosthodontist, a dentist specializing in dental restoration procedures and dental restoration devices like implants, crowns, and bridges.
- Supporting posts will be installed by the prosthodontist through the gutta percha and down the root canal system. A crown, which looks like a natural tooth crown, will be used to cap the treated tooth.
It is normal to feel tenderness or sensitivity on the tooth that received root canal treatment for as long as two weeks. Take note, however, that extreme pain and swelling are not normal and may indicate infection.
As part of the precautionary measures that you should take in taking care of your teeth, it is very important that you are able to maintain good dental hygiene. Though not for get to brush your teeth every day and make sure that you are able to keep in contact with your dental health care professionals so that you would be able to monitor any changes that might happen within your teeth.
It is also important that you are able to regularly have your teeth cleaned so that you would not have an accumulation of dirt and other bacteria inside and in between your teeth. Remember that your teeth are very fragile. For this reason, you have to take care of it as much as you can.
In addition, you also must remember that if you lose one of your permanent teeth, you would not be able to replace it. It will be best to maintain your teeth at an early age so that you would not end up having more dental complications in the future.
Although not all endodontic treatments are successful, an overwhelming majority of them are. People who had successful treatments can expect their treated teeth to serve them for a lifetime, provided, of course, that they give these teeth the right care that they need.