The nerves or pulp area (the center) of a tooth can become diseased or injured as a result of decay, cracks or chips, or repeated dental work on a tooth. When this happens, a special dental procedure can sometimes be performed to save the tooth from extraction. Root canal therapy, also known simply as a root canal, is a relatively common and simple procedure that, despite its reputation, often causes little or no discomfort.
The tooth’s nerves are housed in the root canal system, and the pulp area, which is found at the center of the tooth, is made up of living tissue and cells. During a root canal, both of these areas are removed entirely, along with any contaminates that are in the space. In these cases, if the diseased areas aren’t completely removed, bacteria and debris will further infect the tooth, potentially causing an abscess (wherein, the infection spreads past the root tips), and requiring the tooth’s removal altogether. Once the tooth’s inner areas have been properly cleaned out, the space will be filled and sealed to protect the tooth from further infection.
Any pain following the procedure usually subsides within two days and, during that time, can be relieved by taking an over-the-counter pain medication as directed. After the area has healed from this procedure, impressions are taken and a crown is usually placed over the tooth, which will prevent it from breaking in the future. This step is important because, without its nerves, the tooth will become brittle. If any additional work is necessary, your dentist will discuss this with you directly.