The top portion of the tooth is called the crown. The portion below the gumline is the root. In between the crown and root is the pulp chamber, where the nerves and blood vessels that supply the tooth are located. The root of the tooth is covered by a layer of enamel. Enamel is made up of calcium and phosphate salts, which are minerals that strengthen teeth.
Underneath the enamel is dentin, which is less dense than enamel and softer so it can absorb pressure from chewing and biting. Dentin is made of collagen fibers and mineral deposits such as carbonate, calcium phosphate, magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
Located inside of the dentin is soft tissue called the pulp. Pulp is mostly made of nerve tissue, lymph vessels, and connective tissue. It’s what gives your tooth sensitivity, temperature, and taste.
Between the crown of the tooth and the roots is a space called the root canal system. A root canal consists of tiny canals within the roots of your teeth that contain your dental pulp. Your dentist uses small tools called files to clean them and remove bacteria. This can prevent infection or abscesses from forming.
After the dentist has completed these steps, he will fill the cavity with a composite resin material or a porcelain filling. This creates a durable surface that can restore the strength and function of your tooth.
Many patients avoid visiting the dentist due to fear or anxiety of pain associated with their treatment. The thought of having their teeth drilled to remove tooth decay can be scary for patients. However, thanks to new advances in dentistry, treatments are more comfortable and effective than ever. With modern sedation dentistry techniques at your dentist’s office, getting a root canal doesn’t have to be a painful
Tooth decay is classified by the type of tooth affected by the damage, or the progression of the condition. The first stages are reversible; however, if left untreated it can progress into the irreversible phases. The three types of tooth decay are:
- Enamel erosion – When the enamel layer is damaged as a result of acidic foods and drinks eroding the outer surface of the tooth. This can be prevented using fluoride treatments and avoiding sugar-filled drinks and snacks.
- Dental caries – When the inner layer of the tooth (the dentin) becomes infected and degrades as a result of the buildup of plaque. A cavity will form when this is left untreated. Commonly caused by poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing teeth before bed or forgetting to floss.
- Root canal infection – When the pulp of the tooth becomes infected by bacteria causing the death of the tissue. This can lead to severe pain, loss of sensation, inflammation, and bleeding. Early signs of this may include a toothache or sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. Only a dentist can treat an infection in the root canal. Symptoms that may indicate the need for a root canal include pain while eating or drinking, spontaneous pain that lasts more than a few seconds, prolonged sensitivity or tenderness of the gum line, and swelling around the face or gums.
Plaque is a sticky substance that accumulates on teeth. It is comprised of food and bacteria, which produce acid that wears away enamel. The buildup of plaque can lead to cavities and gum disease. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. When plaque is not removed every day through brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar, which also leads to tooth decay. This is why it is imperative to form a good oral hygiene routine to prevent decay. Even with regular dental care, however, it is still possible to develop instances of decay.
Cavities are holes that form in tooth enamel as a result of acids eating away at the tooth surface. A cavity forms when plaque is left on the tooth for a long period of time. Tooth roots are also at risk for decay because the gums do not always cover them. This makes them more vulnerable to decay as the acidic oral environment makes contact with areas of the teeth that are left exposed by the gums.
Root canals are extremely common endodontic procedures performed to treat infected or damaged teeth. When the pulp is damaged due to decay or trauma, it can cause significant pain for the patient. During root canal therapy, the damaged tissue is removed from the inside of the tooth, and a dental crown is placed over the tooth to protect it from further damage. Although a common procedure, it is still considered major surgery because it removes important tissues from within the tooth.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of decay, it is important to contact your dentist immediately for an examination to see what treatment options are available to you. In some cases, a procedure such as a root canal may be the only option available to save a tooth and restore the natural function.
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During your cleaning, one of our hygienists will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. This is an important step in preventing gum disease and keeping your smile looking healthy for years to come. When your teeth are clean and free from harmful bacteria, it is easier for us to detect any oral health issues at your exam.
We will then examine your mouth for any potential problems such as tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease. Our dentist will also use this time to discuss any concerns you may have about your oral health. Your exam is a great time to ask questions and get a professional opinion regarding the health of your mouth.
To learn more about the importance of teeth care in keeping your teeth and gums healthy, schedule a visit with a dentist in your area today.
*This blog topic was provided by Dr. Danny O'Keefe, an experienced dentist in Richmond, VA. Dr. O’Keefe earned his DDS degree from the Medical College of Virginia School of Dentistry. He currently practices at Advanced Dental Treatment Centers and can be reached for more information through his website at
If the decay reaches the inner pulp of the tooth, or the tooth becomes infected, your dentist will likely recommend having a root canal procedure. A root canal involves removing the infection from the nerve of the tooth and then sealing it back up with a protective crown.
During a root canal procedure, the infected nerve is removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned thoroughly. The inside of the tooth is then sealed up with a protective crown to prevent any further damage to the tooth from bacteria. Without this procedure, an infection could spread through the rest of the body and cause serious health complications.
Root canals are often thought of as painful procedures, but thanks to advancements in dentistry, they can now be completed with minimal discomfort. With modern anesthetics, the procedure can often be completed without pain.
Dental implants are a highly beneficial tooth replacement option for several reasons. They function naturally, and do not require any special cleaning or care. Dental implant patients can eat whatever they’d like, without the risk of removing their restoration to brush or floss. They also restore a patient’s oral function without compromising the health of neighboring teeth. Even more importantly, they help prevent bone loss in the jaw.