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All About the Apical Foramen

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Enamel, dentin, pulp, root, crown-- remembering all these technical dental terms can be a dizzying task! What is an apical foramen? Where is it located on a tooth? We're here to be your guide on your quest to inform yourself on this interesting anatomical feature, how it's involved with root canal treatment, and what you need to know.

Apical Foramen: What Is It?

To best understand apical foramen, it’s a good idea to cover some dental anatomy quickly. Your tooth is filled with soft tissue called pulp that contains blood vessels and nerves. These vital structures help sustain your teeth and communicate sensation to your nervous system.

This pulp goes down through the canal of your teeth' ends and exits at the end of the root, known as the root apex. Where the end of the tooth opens for the pulp to exit is known as your apical foramen.

Did you know “Apical” refers to something related to the apex? This feature gets its name because it's located near the apex of your tooth's root.

What Can Go Wrong?

The hard outer layers of your teeth protect the sensitive insides from damage and infection. The tops (crowns) of your teeth are protected by enamel, whereas your teeth' roots are guarded by cementum.

Causes of infection may include:

  • Injury
  • Broken teeth
  • Cavities
  • Improper dental care
  • Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis)
  • Recurrent dental procedures

It’s crucial to practice proper dental hygiene and treat oral problems early to avoid infection to your tooth. Tips for proper oral care include:

  • Gently brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once daily using floss, an interdental brush, or a flossing device.
  • Rinse using antiseptic mouthrinse to reduce bacterial dental plaque, remove food matter, and help prevent gum disease.
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet that’s low in sugary and acidic foods and beverages.
  • Schedule visits with your dental professional at least every six months.

If your tooth does get infected, your dental professional may recommend a root canal treatment to remove the infection and prevent it from worsening.

Root Canal Treatment

If the soft inside (also known as the pulp) of your tooth becomes infected, you may require what’s known as a root canal treatment. During a root canal procedure, your dental professional will use an instrument to remove the pulp from the inside of your tooth, down through the canal of your tooth’s root (which is where the procedure gets its name).

By removing the pulp of your tooth all the way down through the root canal, your dental professional can often save your tooth from removal and prevent infection from spreading to the bone. After the infected tissue is removed, the resulting space is filled with inorganic material to keep your teeth strong and prevent infection from reoccurring.

If you believe you may need a root canal treatment, schedule an appointment with your dental professional. If they cannot perform the procedure, they may refer you to a specialist known as an endodontist.

The Apex of Tooth Anatomy

Your apical foramen presents challenges during a root canal procedure because your dental professional will most often rely on X-rays. This imaging is essential to your treatment but is far from perfect as it provides a two-dimensional view. The better information your dental professional has, the better they can remove infected tissue and abscesses.

Your dental professional can assess the location of the apical foramen to help ensure successful endodontic treatment. However, it takes finesse to locate the apical foramen because it is small and varies in the exact location from tooth to tooth. According to Columbia University, your apical foramen is typically between 0.5mm to 1.5mm from the apex of your root.

It’s often not possible to know the precise location of your apical foramen, so your dental professional will typically fill your root canal before its end. This precaution helps avoid over-filling and over-instrumentation.

It can be challenging to understand your mouth's detailed anatomy but increasing your knowledge can empower your dental care routine. You now have a fantastic understanding of your mouth's sensitivity to infection and the importance of proper dental care.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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