Root canal, also called endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure used to treat the inside of a decayed or infected tooth to save it.
To understand how it works, it helps to know something about the structure of the tooth.
Your teeth have 2 parts, the crown and the root (see figure below).
The crown is the part of the tooth you can see in your mouth while the root of the tooth is anchored into the jawbone to hold the tooth firmly while it is performing its job.
Your teeth have 3 layers:
- Enamel, the tough outer covering of the crown.
- Dentin, the layer under the enamel covering the nerve of the tooth.
- Pulp is the soft middle portion of the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves.
Why Is The Procedure Needed?
Root canal treatment is needed when the pulp is damaged or when the nerve of the tooth is infected (See figure below).
The inflammation or infection can have lots of causes, including:
- Tooth injury
- Deep decay
- Repeated dental procedures on the tooth
- A crack or chip in the tooth
During this procedure, the nerve and the pulp are removed, and the interior of the tooth is cleaned and sealed.
If left untreated, pulp inflammation or infection can cause severe pain or give rise to an abscess.
Damaged nerve or pulp tissue becomes food to bacteria which begin to multiply within the pulp chamber. This condition can lead to an abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pus-filled sac that develops at the end of the tooth’s root.
An infection in the root canal can lead to:
- Swelling that can extend to other parts of the face, neck, or head.
- Bone loss surrounding the root tip.
Drainage problems expanding outward from the root. A hole in the side of the tooth can develop and the fluid draining into the gums or through the cheek into the skin.