The pulp canal is the hollow area inside a tooth that is filled with sensitive pulp tissue (blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue), which allows the teeth to grow, mature, and respond to stress. Endodontic disease refers to damage to the pulp, commonly termed pulpitis. Depending on the severity of the insult, the pulpitis may be reversible or irreversible. Reversible pulpitis is usually caused by minor trauma, with the tooth surviving the insult. Irreversible pulpitis is a result of major trauma and results in the “death” of the tooth. One of the more common causes of irreversible pulpitis in veterinary patients is tooth fractures, exposing the pulp tissue to bacteria in the oral cavity.
Fractured teeth are a very common occurrence in dogs and cats, resulting from external trauma or chewing on hard objects. The teeth most frequently broken are the canine (fang) teeth in the dog and the cat, and the upper fourth premolar teeth (the large upper teeth in the back of the mouth) in dogs.
Anyone who has experienced tooth pain in their own mouth can verify that this can be very painful. Unfortunately, our pets rarely show signs of discomfort; pets tend to hide their pain, thus making it difficult for us as owners to be aware there might be a problem. Many clients relate that their pets acted “years younger” after the endodontic problem has been correctly treated.
Root canal therapy involves the removal of diseased pulpal tissue which consists of blood vessels and nerves. The clean and disinfected root canal is then filled with an inert material to prevent future bacterial contamination. The tooth is then bonded with tooth-colored restorations. This is done to seal the crown and dentin against further infection.