A root canal is the space within the root of a tooth. It is part of a naturally occurring space within a tooth that consists of the pulp chamber (within the coronal part of the tooth), the main canal(s), and more intricate anatomical branches that may connect the root canals to each other or to the surface of the root.
The smaller branches, referred to as accessory canals, are most frequently found near the root end (apex) but may be encountered anywhere along the root length. There may be one or two main canals within each root. Some teeth have more variable internal anatomy than others. This space is filled with a highly vascularized, loose connective tissue, the dental pulp.
The dental pulp is the tissue of which the dentin portion of the tooth is composed. The dental pulp helps complete formation of the secondary teeth (adult teeth) one to two years after eruption into the mouth. The dental pulp also nourishes and hydrates the tooth structure which makes the tooth more resilient, less brittle and less prone to fracture from chewing hard foods. Additionally, the dental pulp provides a hot and cold sensory function.
According to a recent report from the American Dental Association, males that smoke cigarettes are almost twice as likely to need root canals based on news reports about an extensive study listed to appear in the Journal of Dental Research in April 2006.
The lead author of this study, Boston University’s Dr.Elizabeth Krall Kaye, presented the findings in New York City at a special media briefing hosted by the American Dental Association as well as the American Medical Association.
This long term study began in 1968, where researchers collected data from aging men in the Veterans Affairs. The participants were all males, whose progression of oral health was tracked for nearly three decades. The study states that these male participants were evaluated every three years for gum disease, tooth mobility, cavities, restorations and calculus.
Other risk factors for root canal treatment such as cavities, presence of crowns, age, signs of periapical infection and bone loss were also taken into account and adjusted for by the researchers.
Cigarette smoking has long ago been established as a key risk factor, of both men and women, for oral cancer, lung cancer, heart disease and other medical and dental problems. The findings of this extensive study not only shows data indicating the link between male cigarette smokers and the risk factors of needing root canal treatment, but also reinforces the importance of prevention and overcoming tobacco addiction.