What is the meaning of “root canal”?


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Specialist Endodontist
Endodontic Care
BDS (Otago), DClinDent (Otago)

meaning of root canalA tooth comprises the “crown” (the part of the tooth above the gums and visible in the mouth) and “roots” (which are embedded in the jaw bone and connected to the body’s nervous system).

In the centre of the tooth is the complex soft tissue network made up of nerves and blood vessels that is called the “pulp”. The pulp lives in the roots and crown of the teeth in a space called the “canal”.

Most people would have heard the term “root canal” used in conjunction with “root canal treatment”. Such treatment is undertaken when the pulp of the tooth becomes damaged or infected. This damage can be due to cavities, fractures and/or trauma.

The anatomy of dental canals is extremely complex. The canal system branches out into multiple little spaces where infection can lurk even after treatment. Hence, it is important to achieve the best possible disinfection to optimise the success rate first time around. Re-treatments have a lower success rate than an original, effective root canal treatment.

In summary, the “root canal” is the space inside a tooth that houses the nerves and blood vessels responsible for protecting that tooth. However, this same space can harbour infection when the canal is breached. The infection can be successfully treated by a dentist who has specialised in this field – a practitioner also known as an endodontist.

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*The contents of this blog post are of a general nature only and may not apply to your specific circumstances. As every person is different we always recommend that you visit a qualified dental practitioner to obtain tailored dental advice to suit your own specific needs.

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