Pulp is a collection of tissue, nerves, and blood cells inside the center of a tooth. The pulp is what keeps the tooth alive. Decay and trauma can damage the pulp and, if left untreated, can progress into pulpal necrosis, or pulp death. If dead pulp is left in the tooth, the tooth can eventually completely die, and the only treatment option will be extraction.
There are a few ways your dentist can treat pulpal necrosis. Early treatment tends to be less severe, so visit your dentist regularly, as necrosis doesn't' always present with symptoms.
Root Canal Procedure
A root canal procedure for pulpal necrosis involves completely removing the pulp from its chamber. Your dentist will drill into the top of the tooth, scrape out all of the pulp, and then replace the pulp with a filling to seal the canal shut. Your tooth will then be covered with an artificial dental crown.
A root canal can prevent the necrosis from causing any further damage to the tooth. And the artificial crown can provide an extra layer of external protection. Without the pulp inside, the tooth is still essentially dead. But catching pulpal necrosis early can mean that the dentist doesn't have to actually remove that tooth.
An ancillary procedure to a root canal might be required if the infection that caused the pulp death came in through the root's apex. The apex is the far end of the root, which is difficult for a dentist to reach during a standard root canal procedure. Sealing off the apex means that the infection can't take hold in the base of the tooth and cause further damage.
In these cases, pulp death is treated with a combination approach. The standard root canal is performed up to the point of filling the canal. Then, the dentist accesses the apex through the gums and jawbone to remove the apex and close off access to the root. The root canal is then filled and completed with a dental crown.
Extraction and Dental Replacement
Root canal treatments aren't always able to save a tooth suffering pulpal necrosis. If the dead pulp has already weakened the tooth substantially, your dentist might recommend extracting the tooth and fitting a dental replacement. There are a variety of dental replacement options, but choosing one before extraction ensures that the extraction spot isn't open long enough to cause bite issues.
For more information, contact an experienced dentist like Ann L Ortega DDS.