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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- After the tooth is anesthetized, an opening is made through the crown into the
- The length of the root canals is determined
- Unhealthy pulp is removed. Canals are cleaned, enlarged and shaped.
- Canals are filled and sealed. A metal post may be added for structural support
or to retain restorative materials.
- 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.