Many of us can name the basic parts of a tooth like enamel, dentin and cementum. But did you know these parts would not exist without the apical foramen? This essential opening lies at the tip of the tooth's root and allows the nerves and blood vessels to create and fortify the soft dental pulp.
Protecting the Pulp
Once a permanent tooth is fully formed, this opening at the apex of a tooth root allows the nerves and blood vessels to provide nutrition to the pulp and aid in its ability to detect pathogens. A healthy pulp translates to a healthy, pain-free tooth. However, if the pulp becomes infected, a toothache will most likely occur and the dental pulp will need to be removed during a root canal procedure.
Root Canal Treatment
A root canal is needed when decay or trauma causes an infection in the pulp known as irreversible pulpitis. The only way to save the tooth is by removing the infected pulp and replacing it with inorganic material.
For a successful root canal, your dentist has to reach all the way to the apical foramen to scrape and flush out the pulp. This will ensure that the infection can completely resolve and not continue to spread to the surrounding bone. The material that replaces it is usually a biocompatible rubber called gutta percha, writes the American Association of Endodontists. When the root canal is finished, the tooth is usually capped with a permanent crown to protect it.
The Apex of Tooth Anatomy
One of the challenges of a root canal procedure is reaching and successfully sealing the apical foramen during treatment. Knowledge of the shape and function of the tooth apex, according to a study from the International Journal of Morphology, is crucial for eliminating all abscesses, inflammation or bacteria and shaping the canal for the final seal.
The study involved examining the foramina of 147 recently extracted teeth, which were all permanent maxillary and mandibular first molars. The average dimension of the apical foramen was between 0.24 and 0.34 mm in the upper teeth and 0.25 and 0.33 mm in the lower molars. That's about the size of the period at the end of that sentence!
More common methods of locating the apex of a tooth include X-rays and other diagnostic pulp finders. Your dentist might also refer you to a dental specialist called an endodontistfor a root canal procedure.
Research studies that shed light upon tooth anatomy aids a dental professional in performing any procedure you may need. Knowing the parts of your own mouth can help you remember the value of whole-mouth health.