Root canals are tiny passageways found inside the tooth that contain the nerve and blood vessels of the tooth and exit the tip of the root. All teeth have between one and four root canals. Many tooth problems involve infections that spread to the center of the tooth, known as the pulp. When the infection becomes worse, it can begin affecting the roots. A traumatic injury to a tooth can also compromise the pulp, leading to similar problems. A diseased inner tooth brings a host of problems; pain and sensitivity are some of the first indications of a problem; but inside, a spreading infection can cause small pockets of pus to develop, leading to an abscess. Root canal therapy is a remarkable treatment with a very high rate of success, and involves removing the diseased tissue, halting the spread of infection and restoring the healthy portion of the tooth. In fact, root canal therapy is designed to save a problem tooth. Before the procedure was developed, the only alternative for treating a diseased tooth was extraction.
Root canal therapy usually entails one to two visits. During the first visit, a small hole is drilled through the top of the tooth and into the inner chamber. Diseased tissue is removed, the inner chamber cleansed and disinfected, and the tiny canals reshaped. The cleansed chamber and canals are filled with an elastic material and medication designed to prevent infection. The drilled hole is then filled and the tooth is prepared for a permanent crown. Most patients who have root canal therapy performed, experience little or no discomfort or pain, and enjoy a restored tooth that can last almost as long as a healthy tooth.