Tooth decay or infection that reaches the tooth’s core – and the sensitive nerve endings contained in the pulp – can be tremendously painful and even potentially dangerous, as such an infection can easily access the bloodstream and spread elsewhere in the body. Furthermore, a tooth affected by extensive infection in the pulp may be at risk for structural damage that could lead to the need for the tooth to be extracted.
Although tooth replacement technology has advanced significantly in recent decades, even dental implants do not completely replace a natural tooth in terms of form and function. Therefore, a root canal can help patients to save a biological tooth, which is always preferable whenever possible.
Your dentist may recommend a root canal if your tooth has an extremely large cavity that has reached the pulp chamber or an abscess. Root canals may also be necessary when a tooth is severely cracked or otherwise damaged to the degree that its inner core is exposed to the oral cavity and bacteria that are found there. Essentially the dentist will remove the infected pulp material from the tooth, clean the empty chamber thoroughly to remove any lingering bacteria and fill in the empty space with a rubber-like substance. The treatment is not nearly as uncomfortable as most people think, and sedation and local anesthesia can be combined to maximize patient comfort throughout the process. In fact, root canals actually eliminate the pain that is caused by the infection!
After a root canal is completed, the treated tooth is usually fitted for a crown. A tooth that has undergone a root canal is more likely to break than other teeth, so the crown offers strength and protection after root canal therapy.