The Anatomy of a Root Canal

Root canals have been a long standing treatment at many dental offices across the United States. The procedure is used to alleviate pain and remove diseased tooth pulp, typically after a tooth infection or severe tooth decay. While the procedure does alleviate pain and gets patients back to chewing, the procedure can fail. Root canal failures result in more pain and unavoidable tooth extraction. There is an alternative to the traditional root canals that can treat tooth decay without risking the loss of the tooth. This alternative is found in biomimetic dentistry.

For many patients, the root canal or pulpectomy procedure happens as a result of tooth decay. But it can happen two ways, directly as a result of severe, untreated tooth decay, or as a result of a failed dental filling treatment to treat the tooth decay. When tooth decay is left untreated, the enamel is compromised and begins to disintegrate away, leaving the pulp portion of the tooth exposed. The dental pulp is the living tissue of the tooth, the functions of the pulp include keeping the enamel and other hard tissue alive by supplying nutrients, production of hard dentin tissue that helps to form the tooth during development, and senses changes in temperature, pressure, and pain.


Pulp can also be exposed after a failed dental filling. When patients have a dental filling placed in a tooth to treat tooth decay, the area of decay is drilled out, and the filling is placed in the hole as a plug. Some dental fillings are metal amalgam fillings that do not bond with the tooth’s enamel, and because of this easily break or fall out. Another result of this loose fit is the risk of infection, as food particles and bacteria can become trapped beneath the filling inside the tooth. When this happens, the pulp can become infected and inflamed. If the infection is untreated, patients can end up with a serious abscess that can impact their overall health.

The root canal removes the diseased pulp by going directly through the tooth. During the procedure, the dentist drills out a larger hole, then removes the pulp from the pulp chamber and the root canals. These areas are then filled in with a rubber-like material and cement. After the procedure, a crown is placed over the tooth to replace the natural enamel crown that was destroyed during restoration.

If the infected pulp is not completely removed, or bacteria makes its way under the crown, and there is a risk that the patient can still end up with an abscess. The only difference is that now there is no longer living tissue to remove, and the patient is at risk of further decay, loss of enamel and infection. As a result, most dentists elect to extract the tooth. Tooth extraction has its own set of concerns and complications.

"Tooth decay can be a relatively quick downward spiral, but it doesn’t have to be," Dr. Steven P. Rogers said.

Rogers offers preventative and biomimetic dental treatments at his office in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. Biomimetic dental treatment of tooth decay focuses on eradicating bacteria that causes the decay, and then restoration. Rogers uses biomimetic, or lifelike, materials to treat and fill in areas of tooth decay. These materials bond tightly to the tooth, creating a seal to keep out bacteria. His unique approach focuses on providing preventative treatments, patient education, and high-quality preservation.

"By eliminating the opportunity for bacteria to take up residence, we can reduce the opportunity for further decay and infection," explains Rogers. "Preservation of the tooth is paramount for patient health. It is much easier to preserve a tooth than to have to restore it."  

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