Teeth are made up of hard and soft tissues. There are two hard tissue layers, comprising of the outside layer called enamel and an inner layer called dentine. Dentine is present in the crown and root of the tooth and encases a soft tissue called the dental pulp.
The dental pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that are responsible for forming the surrounding dentine during tooth development. Although the dental pulp is important during development of the tooth, it is not necessary for function of the tooth. The tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it even after the pulp is removed.
Endodontic treatment or root canal treatment is required when the dental pulp becomes diseased due to inflammation or infection. The most common reasons for disease of the dental pulp are deep cavities (caries), extensive dental restoration and cracks in teeth. Trauma can also cause inflammation and may show up as discoloration in the crown of the tooth. If inflammation or infection of the dental pulp is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
Signs and Symptoms
Indications of inflammation or infection of the dental pulp include:
1. Prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold
2. Swelling of the gum adjacent to the tooth
3. Tenderness of the tooth or adjacent gums.
On occasions there are no symptoms and the first sign of a problem maybe when an x-ray is taken of the tooth.