In its simplest sense, a root canal is a deep filling done by cleaning the infection innermost layer of the tooth which is made up of nerves and blood vessels. Years ago, teeth with diseased or injured pulps were removed. Today, root canal treatment saves many teeth that would otherwise be lost.
Root canal treatment is the removal of the tooth’s pulp or nerve, 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.
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. Once treated there is no longer a pulp keeping the tooth alive, root-treated teeth can become brittle and are more prone to fracture. This is an important consideration when deciding whether to crown or fill a tooth after root canal treatment.
Once you’re treated and restored tooth/teeth, it can last a lifetime with proper care. Since tooth decay can still occur in treated teeth, good oral hygiene and regular dental exams are necessary to prevent further problems.