Inside your tooth is a soft area known as the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. Though the pulp normally provides a tooth with nutrients, it can also become infected. When this occurs, the pulp dies. A root canal removes the dead pulp in order to:
Eliminate disease or decay. The infection from a diseased or dead pulp can cause pain, health problems, and teeth loss.
Prevent future infections. If not completely removed, the infection can remain and spread.
Save a tooth. In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased pulp, it was usually extracted. Now, root canals can help you keep that tooth. Even teeth with significant damage from disease or accident can be saved with root canals, and can last for the rest of your life.
Root canals, also known as endodontic therapy, are fairly common procedures, and the experience is similar to having a tooth filled.
During a root canal, your dentist first removes all of a tooth’s diseased pulp, and then cleans the area. Your dentist will clean out every bit of material to make sure that no trace of infection or bacteria remains.
The space where the pulp used to be is filled with a non-reactive and biocompatible material called gutta-percha, and topped with a temporary filling. After a few weeks, your dentist removes the filling, checking again for any bacteria, and applies a permanent crown.
You may need a root canal if you:
Sometimes, there are no noticeable symptoms, but your dentist may discover the infection during a routine visit.