Before the invention of a special procedure called root canal therapy, a tooth with a diseased nerve would most likely need to be pulled. Today, root canal therapy makes it possible to save that tooth. Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure that causes little to no discomfort, can be completed in one to three visits, and can save your tooth and your smile!

What is root canal therapy for?

Your dentist uses root canal treatments to find and treat problems in the tooth’s soft core – the dental pulp.

What is the dental pulp?

The pulp is the soft tissue inside of your tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. It extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the root in your jaw bone.

The pulp provides nutrients to the tooth. Dental pulp runs like a thread down through the root. When the pulp is diseased or injured, the pulp tissue dies. Unless that dead pulp tissue is removed, it can become infected and lead to loss of the tooth. After the dentist removes the pulp, the root canal is cleaned and sealed. Your dentist then places a crown over the tooth to help make it stronger.

How is dental pulp damaged?

The most common causes of pulp death are cracked teeth or deep cavities. Both of these problems can allow bacteria to enter into the delicate pulp of your teeth. That bacteria can then cause an infection inside of the tooth.

Why does the pulp need to be removed?

Left without treatment, pus builds up at the root tip, in the jawbone, forming a “pus-pocket” called an abscess. An abscess can cause damage to the bone around the teeth. If it isn’t removed, infected pulp can cause a variety of problems, like severe pain and swelling. In severe cases, the infection can progress to the point that the affected teeth need to be removed, eventually even doing damage to your jawbone and surrounding teeth.

What does root canal treatment involve?

Root canal treatments typically require one to three visits to complete. During treatment, your dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) will remove any diseased pulp. The pulp chamber and root canal or canals of the tooth or teeth are then cleaned and sealed.