A root canal is a treatment to repair and save a tooth that is decayed or infected. Specifically, a root canal treats the infected pulp of a tooth, which is the soft area deep inside the tooth that contains the tooth’s nerve.
The tooth’s nerve is not important to the tooth’s function – the nerve only provides the sensations of hot and cold. Decay and infection can damage the tooth’s pulp and nerve, leaving the tooth vulnerable to breakdown. Bacteria can multiply within the pulp chamber; bacteria combined with debris from tooth decay can cause an infection. An abscessed tooth may develop if the infection spreads past the ends of the tooth’s roots.
Dentists perform root canals, also known as endodontics, to save millions of teeth each year. During a root canal, your dentist removes the pulp and the nerve from the affected tooth. Next, the dentist cleans and seals the inside of the tooth. Without this treatment, infection may set into the tissue surrounding the tooth and abscesses may form.
About the Root Canal Procedure
Dentists perform root canals in one or two visits. Root canal treatment starts with x-rays to determine the extent of damage to the tooth. The dentist will administer a local anesthetic to numb the tooth. Next, the dentist creates a small opening in the crown of the tooth and inserts very small instruments to remove the pulp and reshape the space inside the tooth. The dentist then fills the tooth with a biocompatible material and cement to seal the tooth completely. Finally, the dentist places a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect it and restore it to full function.