Root canal treatment is a procedure used to save a tooth if the nerve or pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth) becomes infected or irreversibility inflamed. Tooth nerve or pulp infections and inflammation can be caused by dental decay, trauma, fractures, gum disease and a broken filling or crown.
To save the tooth, the decayed portions of the tooth are removed and the pulp is extracted. The root canals are then cleaned to remove the bacteria, pus and debris and prepared to accept a filling material which takes the place of the nerve within the canals. If there is an infection in the root canal, the dentist may place a medicated dressing and seal the tooth with temporary filling material. This process may need to be repeated until the tooth is free from bacteria. Once the root canal is infection-free it is then sealed with a long-lasting filling material. An artificial biting surface for the tooth is created out of regular filling material. In many cases, where there is considerable loss of the tooth structure, there may be a need for a crown. This entire process restores the tooth to its full function.