Root canal treatment is the removal of the tooth's pulp, a small, thread-like tissue in the center of the tooth. Once the damaged, diseased or dead pulp is removed, the remaining space is cleaned, shaped and filled. This procedure seals off the root canal. Years ago, teeth with diseased or injured pulps were removed. Today, root canal treatment saves many teeth that would otherwise be lost.
The most common causes of pulp damage or death are:
- A cracked tooth
- A deep cavity
- An injury to a tooth, such as a severe knock to the tooth, either recent or in the past.
Once the pulp is infected or dead, if left untreated, pus can build up at the root tip in the jawbone, forming an abscess. An abscess can destroy the bone surrounding the tooth and cause pain
Your teeth are held in place by roots that extend into your jawbone. Front teeth usually have one root. Other teeth, such as your premolars and molars, have two or more roots. The tip or end of each root is called the apex. Nerves and blood vessels enter the tooth through the apex. They travel through a canal inside the root, and into the pulp chamber. This chamber is inside the crown (the part of the tooth you can see in your mouth).
During root canal treatment, your dentist cleans the canals using special instruments called files. Inflamed or infected tissue is removed. An apicoectomy may be needed when an infection develops or won't go away after root canal treatment or retreatment.