Your teeth are meant to last a lifetime. Years ago, diseased or injured teeth were usually pulled. But, today a tooth can often be saved through root canal (endodontic) treatment.

A root canal is necessary if the pulp or soft tissue inside the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves is injured. When the pulp becomes inflamed or infected, treatment is needed. The most common cause of pulp inflammation or infection are a cracked or chipped tooth, a deep cavity or filling, or other serious injury to the tooth. All of these can allow bacteria to enter the pulp.

If damaged or infected pulp is not removed, the tissues around the root of the tooth can become infected. Pain and swelling often result. Even if there is no pain, bacteria can damage the bone that holds the tooth in the jaw. Without treatment, the tooth may have to be removed.

During a root canal, your tooth and the area around it will be numbed. An opening is then made on the crown (top) of the tooth, and the diseased pulp is removed. Depending on your particular case, your tooth may be left open or have a temporary filling put in until your next visit. At your follow-up appointment the tooth is sterilized to remove remaining bacteria then permanently sealed.