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.
At the center of all teeth is a hollow area that houses soft tissues, such as the nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissue. This hollow area contains a relatively wide space in the coronal portion of the tooth called the pulp chamber. These canals run through the center of the roots, similar to how pencil lead runs through a pencil. The pulp receives nutrition through the blood vessels, and sensory nerves carry signals back to the brain.
Root canal therapy, when completed by a trained specialist (endodontist), can retain teeth for a short term, intermediate term, or long term. It is important to discuss the details associated with therapy with an endodontist/dentist. Not all clinicians have the same skill sets. Dentists are trained in various subjects/techniques either to the instruction level, exposure level, competency level, and perhaps the proficiency level.
A recent survey by the American Association of Endodontists reveals that 70 percent of Americans fear losing a natural tooth. Ironically, that same percentage also fears root canal treatment, the exact procedure that can save their pearly whites. During its fifth annual Root Canal Awareness Week, March 27-April 2, the AAE will reach out to the public to help dispel the myth that root canals are painful, as well as recognize the importance of endodontists and general dentists as partners in patient care.
More survey respondents indicated a desire to avoid losing a permanent tooth or getting root canal treatment than paying taxes or speaking in public. Two-thirds also ranked root canals as the dental procedure they most fear, more than having a tooth pulled or a cavity filled.
Unfortunately, much of the fear of root canals is based on outdated misconceptions. A previous AAE survey found that 89 percent of patients were satisfied when they received treatment from an endodontist, and the AAE also found that the vast majority of general dentists, 93 percent, agree that endodontists are important partners in delivering quality dental care.
"The AAE is thrilled that general practitioners, as much as endodontists, cherish the importance of partnership for the well-being of all patients," said, Dr. Clara M. Spatafore, president of the AAE. "The main goal is to provide patients with an easy and comfortable transition between their dentist and endodontist, through open communication between the doctors. We want dentists to understand that we will take care of their patients to the best of our ability and send them back with a positive experience behind them."