About Root Canals by Dr. James Eaton

Dr EatonHi. My name is James Eaton. You may see me around the office tagging along with Dr Ripplinger and the staff. I will be working for Dr Ripplinger for the next little while, or so he thinks. I am actually going undercover to try and discover his secret fly-fishing spots. But don’t let him know that. As you can see, I am an avid outdoorsman. Along with my outdoor hobbies, I also have a very unique hobby. I like to do root canals. Weird huh? I actually love them. Something about them just fascinates me. And for me, I think root canals have a bad rap. We need to cut them a break. To do that, I will help you understand a little about them and maybe when your next root canal comes along you will be able to better understand what is happening to your tooth and how to fix it.

Did you know that each time you eat food that each tooth has a way to tell you if what you are eating is good for your body? This is the body’s first defense mechanism to protect itself. You may have experienced this if you have been unable to resist taking a huge bite of a delicious scoop of pralines and cream ice cream. Most likely, a sharp pain in your teeth ensued which lasted for a few seconds, or maybe a similar pain when drinking hot cup of coffee. I have bitten down on a small rock by accident that sent an electric-like shock throughout my jaw. That was a result of growing up with five brothers and sisters and having to eat as fast as I could to get my share, I guess. These are just a few ways that your teeth help you to watch out for what you eat.

Inside each tooth is a small, intricate system of nerve fibers and blood vessels that communicate this type of information to your brain. This is called the pulp of the tooth. Also along the surface of the tooth’s root, there are also additional nerves that activate if a tooth is being pressed on too hard. This is called the periodontal ligament. When healthy, irritation of these nerve fibers usually results in a mildly sharp pain that lasts for a few seconds. That is normal and reflects what I call a ‘reversible’ change. This means the body can repair the injury on its own. However, there are also stimuli that can result in ‘irreversible’ changes. Sharp, intense pains that last longer than just a few seconds, spontaneous pain that hurts without any stimulus, or even dull aching pains are all signs of an irreversible change in the pulp. This means that the body is unable to repair the tooth by itself. You’re body is unable to get enough “stuff” inside the tooth to fix the problem. This is why root canals are so cool; they are the solution. And oftentimes, your discomfort is in large part cured immediately.

Root canals are an endodontic procedure. Endodontics is the dental specialty concerned with the study and treatment of the dental pulp. Thus you can say that I am an endodontist. Endodontists perform a variety of procedures including root canal therapy, endodontic retreatment, surgery, treating cracked teeth, and treating dental trauma. Root canal therapy is one of the most common procedures. If the dental pulp, the nerve and blood vessels that nourish the tooth, becomes diseased or injured, endodontic treatment is required to save the tooth. The dental pulp is the only isolated system in the body that is located within a hard tissue barrier. For this reason when irritated, the body’s response may be insufficient in removing the insult. Additionally, when irritated, severe pain may ensue from inflammation contained within a system that does not allow for expansion.

The goal of root canal treatment is to remove the infected pulp tissue that is found within the tooth. To access the pulp, a tiny hole is made into the crown as the caries are removed. Each root canal is then located before instrumentation is initiated to effectively remove the infected tissue. Irrigation is applied and medication placed to disinfect the remaining root structure. While maintaining an aseptic environment, a special filling material called gutta percha is placed the length of the root canal. This ensures that there are no potential spaces for reinfection and seals off the canal to bacterial threats. The small hole made upon beginning the root canal is then filled with a restorative filling. Upon returning to your regular dentist, a crown will be placed, ensuring successful long-term treatment outcome.

And that’s it. Your tooth has been fixed and will begin to heal now that the source of the infection has been removed. The compromised nerve inside the tooth has been removed and replaced with a special filling material. In addition, the outside of the tooth, or the periodontal ligament, remains very much alive and functioning. This will ensure the tooth remains inside your mouth and itself in full function. I bet inside you are feeling a slight tingle. This means you and I will likely be friends because you are beginning to like root canals too! I look forward to meeting you. If you have any personal questions or I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me at dreaton@bluecreekendo.com. See you around the office.


James A Eaton, DDS

**Update: Dr. Eaton is no longer at our practice. If you think you might need a root canal, please call our office today to see Dr. Dave. We would be happy to take a look and let you know what treatment we recommend. Check out our website for more details about root canals or call our office today! (208) 402-1040