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As you may be aware, the soft inner material of the tooth, or pulp, extends all the way down into the roots. This area of each root, or canal, is filled with nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels. Even though the pulp provides nutrition for teeth as they emerge, fully developed teeth also derive nutrition from the gums. Therefore, pulp can be safely removed from adult teeth. When you undergo a root canal, or other types of endodontic treatment, your dentist will not need to extract the tooth. In the United States alone, over 24 million teeth are saved via the usage of root canals.
Why is procedure performed?
Once the pulp of a tooth becomes infected, it will cut of the blood supply to the tooth. This, in turn, will also prevent the pulp from healing. Pulp infections can also spread to the bone that supports teeth. Unfortunately, you may also develop abscesses, which can lead to a life threatening condition.
In most cases, pulp infections get started when cavities go untreated. Unfortunately, once the enamel and dentin are gone, infection can reach right into the root canals. Typically, antibiotics cannot get inside the tooth in order to clear the pulp of infection. The only way to resolve this situation is to have a root canal.
Unfortunately, cracked teeth may also need root canals. You will also find that extensive fillings, and preparation for crown placement can also damage pulp enough to require its removal. Depending on the situation, your dentist may want to wait before performing a root canal. For example, if the pulp is not infected, but shows sign of inflammation, it may still heal by itself. That said, if the inflammation is painful, you may want to have the root canal done sooner rather than later.
Once a root canal is performed, the tooth should remain healthy and strong for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, if you decide to have the tooth pulled instead, adjacent teeth can get knocked out of line. There will also be an increased risk of damage to other teeth, as there will be an extra burden placed on them each time you chew food.