Inside a healthy tooth is a tissue called pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Sometimes the pulp can become damaged due to injury or disease. If it cannot repair itself, bacteria and by products of decay can leak into the pulp, causing it to become inflamed, infected, or even die. This can lead to a pain or an abscess forming at the tip of the tooth root. Left untreated, even the bone anchoring the tooth in the jaw can become damaged and the tooth may have to be extracted.
It may be difficult for a patient to tell if they need a root canal treatment. Symptoms that might indicate a problem with pulp tissue include pain, sensitivity to heat, cold, or touch, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling in the lymph nodes.
Endodontic Treatment (Root Canal)
A root canal, known as an endodontic treatment, involves removing and replacing a tooth's pulp tissue. This procedure is done using a local anesthetic. After the dentist creates an opening in the crown of the tooth, he removes the diseased pulp, cleans and shapes the inside of the root canal, and then fills and seals the space.
Most of the time, a root canal is followed with a crown that restores the original function of the tooth.