Root canal treatment, or endodontic treatment, is deemed necessary treatment for a tooth when the pulp of a tooth becomes inflamed or infected. The pulp of the tooth is the soft tissue in the center of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood vessels of that tooth. The inflammation of this tissue can have multiple causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, a crack or fracture of part of the tooth, and injury to the tooth (i.e. an accident involving a major blow to the jaw). If this pulpal inflammation is left untreated it can lead to an abscess.
Signs and symptoms to look for include pain, swelling, prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold, tender to touch or chew, discoloration of the tooth, drainage, and tenderness of the lymph nodes or nearby gingival tissues. There are also times where no symptoms are evident, but an abscess is detected on X-ray.
In order to save an abscessed, or infected tooth, the pulp (nerves and blood vessels of the tooth), the invading bacteria and any decay must be removed from the tooth. The resulting space is filled with a medicated dental material. With removal of the extensive decay, the pulp and root canal spaces, a large portion of the tooth is missing. To restore the tooth to proper form and function, we build up the tooth with a post in the root canal space, a build up, and a crown once the root canal is complete.