root canal issues

Root Canal Issues
The Root Canal Treatment is perhaps one of the most feared and misunderstood procedures performed in dentistry. A root canal is generally done when decay and bacteria have infected the nerve, or pulp, in the tooth root. Pain and/or abscess may result, and most dentists will automatically do a root canal without a second thought.

In a traditional root canal, the roots are cleaned out, removing all the nerve/pulp tissue, infection and abscesses. Then the root interior is rinsed out with harsh, toxic chemicals in an attempt to sterilize it, after which a latex/heavy metal oxide compound called "gutta percha" is placed into the roots. The root is then ground down for a crown made of a metal alloy or a porcelain/metal combination and is cemented over the tooth core.

There are many weaknesses and potential health problems involved in this commonly done procedure. The chemicals used inside the tooth root can kill living tissue, including the surrounding bone and immune membrane barrier. The "gutta percha" (the latex/heavy metal salts filling material) may lead to chronic inflammation and further disease. Many people who are allergic or sensitive to latex may experience bad reactions to this latex-based filling material.

In exploring root canal issues, it has been found that many times a standard root canal treatment may not be necessary. There are now procedures and treatments available which eliminate the need for root canals, and can restore the affected tooth to life and health. Preserving a living nerve is better for the patient, because the preservation of the tooth nerve and the health of the surrounding tissues also preserves the lymphatic and blood circulation to those areas, which in turn preserves the all-important immune system in the mouth--a key component of the body's immune system.

Another model of root disease that leads to root canal issues is the chronic inflammation model. In this model, the fluid pressure inside the nerve of the tooth rises, usually due to trauma which produces inflammation, and the increased swelling causes pain. If the lymphatic drainage is congested, the fluid pressure does not dissipate and the pain persists. Any new stimulation to the tooth, biting or temperature, produces pain that is persistent due to chronic inflammation. Unable to solve the problem of chronic pain with normal bite adjustments and desensitizers, the dentist usually recommends a root canal.

There is yet another root canal issue that may lead to root canal treatments. This is called ischemic osteonecrosis. This is caused by a deprivation in either blood flow or oxygen to the bone surrounding the tooth root. If bone, or any living tissue, is deprived of oxygen for a prolonged period of time, the cells in the tissue die. This may produce a gangrene like effect without a living blood supply or active immune system to fight potential infection. This dead zone around the tooth root may also cut off the blood flow and oxygen to the nerve in the tooth root causing the nerve to degenerate and die. Because there is no active immune system in the area, there may be no pain or swelling in this model. The first signs that there is something wrong may appear as a hole (cavitation), or dark area around the tooth root on an xray. When a dentist sees this, a root canal is usually recommended. However, just doing a root canal alone, especially with the necrosing chemicals and gutta percha, may not solve the problem until the oxygen and blood flow are restored to the bone and surrounding tissue.

What is a Tooth Root?

To fully understand the differences in these three root canal issues, as well as to understand how to treat them and make the tooth and surrounding bone healthy, we need to understand what a tooth root is and how it functions; how it develops and changes throughout life; and what factors need to be considered in the surrounding bone as well as our whole body functioning systems

The next page will give you more details on basic tooth structure and the tooth root system, to help you understand the importance of protecting tooth roots and avoiding treatments that are potentially harmful to them. The pages after that will describe conventional treatments and the healthy alternatives to them.

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