May 10, 2020
Root canal procedure is one of the most common treatment procedures for an infected tooth. The main purpose of this treatment is to clear the tooth from all the infectious microorganisms by thoroughly cleaning the root canal.
In order to clean the root canal, a dentist locates the openings of the root canals by drilling the infected portion of the tooth. These openings are called orifices. Once the orifices are located, small needle like instruments called endodontic files are used to clean the canal. However, root canals are not consistent for each tooth. Moreover, in the same tooth the anatomy of the root canal can vary greatly. Therefore, before beginning with any debridement, it is necessary to fix the path of the canal to be cleaned.
Imagine going in a water park and being a part of a slide that is spiral or tortuous. The moment you sit on the slide till the part you splash inside the water, the ride is a free flow one. You let yourself loose on the water ride, all the way down without making any efforts. Similarly, an endodontic file needs to slide from the orifice all the way till the root canal terminates. This is called the glide path.
In order to create a glide path, the canal is initially traced by the endodontic file. Most commonly, the files used are called K-Files. Once the terminus is reached, short vertical strokes are made with these files to clear any hindrance in the root canal. At times a dentist might even rotate the files in various twisting motions in order to gradually enlarge the canal. It is a great challenge for a dentist that a smooth path free of any obstruction is created without it being perforated.
The eventual goal for creating a successful glide path is achieved when the endodontic file designated as "No.10" can loosely adapt in the canal. This is also achieved by using various chemicals called "irrigants." These irrigants help in flushing out the debris and other particulate matter from the root canals. A combination of this mechanical filing and chemical irrigation can further be enhanced when rotary instruments come into the picture. These are the instruments wherein the filing is automated. It serves two purposes. Firstly, it reduces the total time of the procedure. Secondly, it reduces the level of fatigue on the hands that a dentist usually gets while using manual files.
The most commonly used files used in these rotary systems are made up of Nickel and Titanium (NiTi). The NiTi alloy adds to the endodontic file's property of being elastic. This leads to the file traversing the root canal more freely compared to manual file systems. Many a times, dentists are often faced with a dilemma as to whether they should use a manual or a rotary file. The answer is a combination of both. It is recommended that the manual file first makes an unresisted unforced path. Following this, a rotary file clears off the obstacles by adapting to the canal shape.
A proper glide path lays down the foundation for achieving the essence of root canal treatments. Only if the glide path is determined, can a dentist successfully seal the tooth in a way that no future infections can affect the tooth. The resistance against these infections depends on the way the canal is cleaned and shaped. An establishment of the glide path can help in achieving something known as 3-D cleaning. Just like the name suggests, the canal can be cleaned in all three dimensions by the rotary file when the manual files pave a way that allows for an undisturbed torque action of the rotary files. Furthermore, through the glide path formation, a root canal's original anatomy is minimally changed.
In a nutshell, the glide path ensures that the tip of the endodontic file is not obstructed on its way to the terminus. It ensures that file used can take the shape of the canal for an efficient preparation of the canal before it is finally sealed and restored. Thus, a glide path lays down the foundation for a successful root canal treatment.