Your tooth may appear to be fairly simple at first glance, but there are several parts of a tooth that work together to withstand chewing pressure and stay strong so you can smile and talk with confidence. Understanding the anatomy of your tooth and how it functions is an important step in understanding what happens when it gets infected and why root canal therapy is an effective treatment.
Your tooth has three main layers: enamel, dentin, and dental pulp. Enamel is the hard protective shell that makes up the outer layer of each tooth. Underneath the enamel is a softer and more sensitive layer called dentin. At the very center of your tooth is a cavity of soft tissue, nerves, and blood vessels that is called pulp. This pulp chamber is located within the root canal that runs through the center of the tooth. Some teeth are made up of more than one root canal. When your tooth is first emerging, the tooth pulp and nerves are crucial to the life of the tooth because they run nutrients down to the tooth roots. However, once the tooth has fully emerged, the pulp and nerves are not as essential because surrounding tissue can help nourish the tooth.
When your tooth experiences severe decay, or a crack that extends down far enough, bacteria can easily creep in. Over time, this bacteria causes inflammation and infection in the tooth pulp, causing the pulp and nerves to die, which creates considerable tooth pain. Instead of extracting the entire tooth, root canal therapy allows an endodontist (a dentist who specializes in treating tooth pulp and nerves) to open up the tooth and clean out all of the infection. The tooth is then filled, sealed, and topped with a protective dental crown to prevent further decay. Because the pulp and nerves that are cleaned out are not essential to the tooth once it is fully formed, your natural tooth is still able to remain intact.
To learn more about how to treat infections in your root canal, call Cascade Endodontics in the Provo area to schedule an initial consultation with endodontist Dr. Jon Jenson.