Maintaining Bite with Root Canals
Thursday June 4, 1998
Dear Dr. Mady: I have had three root canals and I still don't understand this procedure and when it is necessary. I would also like to know what a post does. -Reader
Root canal treatment, also called endodonic treatment, involves relieving pain and discomfort by basically removing the nerve from a tooth. The procedure involves opening the tooth with a small hole through its biting surface to expose the nerve (pulp) which is then removed using fine metal rotary or hand files. During this, medications may be used to help sterilize the internal environment of the roots being cleaned.
Human teeth may have anywhere from one to four root canals, depending on which tooth it is. After each canal is thoroughly cleaned and shaped, it is filled with a medicated cement and a rubber-like material and then the tooth is usually closed with a temporary filling to be replaced at a later appointment.
If a considerable amount of tooth structure is lost from decay or trauma, a metal pin or post may be inserted into the canal(s) to help restore the tooth. The main purpose of the post is to provide retention and support for the buildup (core) that will replace what is missing.
Teeth that have had root canals may become weak and more brittle than they were prior to treatment, so a cap or crown (covering) should usually be placed on the tooth for longevity.
There is not one week that passes that I don't see a patient in my own practice who had endodontic treatment and did not get a crown, and the result was extraction due to extreme fracture or splitting of the tooth.
Ultimately, the intention of this therapy is to allow you to keep your tooth for a longer period, which will help to maintain your natural bite and the healthy functioning of your jaws. The only other alternative is extraction and I'm positive that your dentist would agree that it is not the optimal treatment choice.
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5