Root Canal

If your tooth's nerve chamber becomes infected by decay, root canal treatment is often the only way to save your tooth.

Inside your tooth's hard outer shell is a nourishing pulp of blood vessels, lymph vessels, and nerves. The root canals, which contain the pulp, extend to the bone. Deep tooth decay, or an injury, can cause serious damage and infection to the pulp's nerves and vessels. Root canal, or endodontic, treatment cleans out the infected pulp chamber ad repairs the damage.

Root canal process 01

If the nerves and blood vessels of a tooth have been irreparably damaged, rather than extracting the tooth, a dentist may attempt to save it by performing root canal treatment.

Root canal process 02

Root canal treatment typically requires a series of appointments. At the first appointment, the dentist will drill a small hole through the crown, and remove the infected pulp tissue. The pulp chamber and root canals are then cleaned out and disinfected to remove all of the infection causing bacteria.

Root canal process 03

If there is an abscess, then the dentist may place a temporary seal on the tooth, provide you with antibiotics, and schedule a follow-up appointment.

Root canal process 04

If there is no evidence of remaining infection at the next appointment, then the canals are packed using a paste and inert rubber like material called gutta percha. Depending on the condition of the tooth, the access opening is either filled with cement, or a crown is placed on the tooth.

Root canal process 05

Occasionally, if an abscess has formed at the base of the tooth, it will be necessary to perform an apicectomy. This is a minor surgical procedure in which the tissue at the base of the root is removed.

Some indications of the need for root canal treatment may be:

  • Spontaneous pain or throbbing while biting.
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
  • Severe decay or an injury that creates an abscess (infection) in the bone.


  1. After the tooth is anesthetized, an opening is made through the crown into the pulp chamber.
  2. The length of the root canals is determined
  3. Unhealthy pulp is removed. Canals are cleaned, enlarged and shaped.
  4. Canals are filled and sealed. A metal post may be added for structural support or to retain restorative materials.
  5. The tooth is sealed with a temporary filling. Usually a gold or porcelain crown adds further protection.

The material used to fill your root canal will probably last you a lifetime, but eventually the filling or crown may need to be replaced.

Be sure to follow the special home care instructions provided by your dental professional.

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