Root canal therapy or treatment is a dental procedure in which the nerve and pulp is removed from the center of a tooth in order to treat an infection or to prevent the area from becoming infected. Teeth consist of an outer layer of hard enamel that covers an inner layer of bone-like material called dentin. In the center of the tooth is the pulp containing the nerves and blood vessels that nourish the tooth.
Sometimes an infection forms in the pulp due to damage to the tooth. An infection will usually, but not always cause the tooth to become painful. If left untreated, the infection will spread to nearby tissues causing further damage and requiring removal of the tooth.
Root canal therapy is meant to preserve and save the natural tooth. Even after the nerve and blood vessels are removed, the tooth can survive because it receives nourishment from blood vessels in the gums. Root canal therapy removes the infected tissue, stops the infection from spreading, and preserves the natural tooth.
After numbing the area, your dentist will drill a hole in the tooth to gain access to the root canal. Your dentist will then remove the infected material, disinfect the area, and seal it.
In most cases, a cap is placed on the tooth after the root canal is completed in order to protect the root canal and to repair damage to the tooth such as a crack or decay. A root canal with a cap is considered a permanent restoration and the tooth should last for years. Root canals have a reputation for being uncomfortable, but in modern dentistry, there should not be any more discomfort during a root canal that there is with the placement of a filling although the root canal procedure will take more time.
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