Root canals are tiny passageways that carry the blood and nerve supply to a live tooth. Due to a variety of different reasons including trauma, decay, or a  fracture, this living tissue can die. This usually, but not always, results in pain to hot, cold and biting pressure and can cause swelling and inflammation at the end of the root of a tooth. Often times, there is spontaneous intense pain as the nerve swells on itself.

Left alone, the infection will spread 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. Prior to the procedure being developed and gaining acceptance, the only alternative for treating a diseased tooth was extraction.

Procedure

Root canal therapy usually entails one to three visits. During the first visit, a small hole is drilled through the top of the tooth and into the pulp 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. If necessary, the drilled hole is temporarily filled until a permanent seal is made with a crown.

Most patients who have had root canal therapy experience only a little discomfort for a couple days following the procedure, and heal up fine. It is considered standard of care, or the level dentists are expected to practice at, to always crown a posterior tooth that has had root canal treatment.