Posts for tag: root canal
As a new permanent tooth develops, the roots undergo a process of breakdown and growth. As older cells dissolve (a process called resorption), they’re replaced by newer cells laid down (deposition) as the jaw develops. Once the jaw development ends in early adulthood, root resorption normally stops. It’s a concern, then, if it continues.
Abnormal root resorption most often begins outside of the tooth and works its way in, beginning usually around the neck-like (or cervical) region of the tooth. Also known as external cervical resorption (ECR), the condition usually shows first as pink spots where the enamel is being undermined. As these spots continue to erode, they develop into cavity-like areas.
While its causes haven’t been fully confirmed, ECR has been linked to excessive pressure on teeth during orthodontic treatment, periodontal ligament trauma, teeth-grinding or other excessive force habits, and bleaching techniques performed inside a tooth. Fortunately, ECR is a rare occurrence, and most people who’ve had these problems won’t experience it.
When it does occur, though, it must be treated as quickly as possible because the damage can progress swiftly. Treatment depends on the size and location of the resorption: a small site can often be treated by surgically accessing the tooth through the gum tissue and removing the offending tissue cells. This is often followed with tooth-colored dental material that’s bonded to the tooth to replace lost structure.
A root canal treatment may be necessary if the damage has extended to the pulp, the tooth’s interior. However, there’s a point where the resorption becomes too extensive to save the tooth. In these cases, it may be necessary to remove the tooth and replace it with a dental implant or similar tooth restoration.
In its early stages, ECR may be difficult to detect, and even in cases where it’s been diagnosed more advanced diagnostics like a CBCT scanner may be needed to gauge the extent of damage. In any case, it’s important that you have your teeth examined on a regular basis, at least twice a year. In the rare chance you’ve developed ECR, the quicker it’s found and treatment begun, the better your chances of preserving the tooth.
When a permanent tooth has been injured, our first priority should be to save it. A root canal treatment (where the interior pulp of the tooth is removed and the pulp chamber and root canals are filled and sealed) is usually the best approach for tooth preservation.
An immature permanent tooth, however, presents a different challenge. While the pulp is less essential to a mature tooth’s vitality, it serves a critical purpose in the tooth’s early development before early adulthood. The pulp produces layers of dentin necessary for the tooth’s root system development. Completely removing the pulp at this stage may retard root development and cause the tooth to eventually weaken, and become brittle and darkened.
For younger teeth, we should therefore use alternative techniques that preserve as much healthy pulp as possible. One of these alternatives is Indirect Pulp Therapy, used when the pulp hasn’t been exposed by the trauma. With this technique we remove as much damaged dentin as possible while preserving the harder dentin closer to the pulp. After applying an antibacterial agent to protect against infection, and then filling and sealing the tooth, the pulp can continue to produce dentin in a normal way.
If pulp exposure has occurred, some form of pulpotomy — the partial removal of any damaged or infected pulp — would be in order. Our goal here is to leave as much of the pulp as possible, and then apply substances that stimulate the remaining pulp to create dentin. The most common type of growth substances are calcium hydroxide or mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA).
If the pulp isn’t at all salvageable, we may then turn to a procedure known as apexification. After removing the pulp we insert MTA at the root end of the tooth, then fill and seal the remaining interior as in a regular root canal treatment. The MTA will help the surrounding bone to heal and continue to grow around the root to further support the tooth.
Recent research into pulp stem cells promises further advances in this area. The regenerative qualities of stem cells could eventually help us “engineer” root development. Until then, there are still effective ways to give a young, damaged tooth a fighting chance to survive.
If you would like more information on preserving injured teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Saving New Permanent Teeth After Injury.”