Like almost everything else in life, there is some variation as to what you might be experiencing when your dentist says that you need to “have a root canal.” Some people are in constant, distracting pain; others have no pain at all. The vast majority will have had some tooth pain, usually characterized by increased “ouch!” from cold or hot liquids, biting tenderness, a throbbing or aching jaw, and occasionally swelling and drainage.
Every tooth has a small amount of soft tissue inside. It’s called the dental pulp, but most of the world, unfortunately, calls it the nerve, which just sounds bad and foreboding. The pulp plays a critical role in tooth development, so when you are a child or in your early teens the pulp is busy doing its life’s work. Once the tooth is fully developed the pulp switches into a more casual mode of life, letting you know if you’ve got ice cream in your mouth, but otherwise not causing much fuss.
However, many things can damage that tissue irreversibly, sometimes as quickly as overnight and sometimes as slowly as over 10+ years. Anyway, most of that tissue is located in a network of small tubes that run through the roots, like microscopic finger holes in a glove. These can be as small as the diameter of a human hair, or as wide as an uncooked thin spaghetti noodle. Someone in ages past named these tubes the root canals, and the name has stuck. Endodontics can be broken down into two root (Ha!) words, endo-inside and dont-tooth. Thus the work of an endodontist is usually to clean the damaged pulp tissue from within those small canals, thus allowing both the tooth and the often-sore jaw to heal.
This short video is oversimplified, but it will give you the general idea.
If you are interested in finding out more about the nuts and bolts of endodontics, these links connect you to the information pages at the American Association of Endodontists. It’s a great site, so have a good time.
Endodontic Center of Southern Indiana
3901 Hagan Street, Suite B
Bloomington, IN 47401
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1950 St Charles St # 6,
Jasper, IN 47546
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