Root canal treatment — also known as root canal therapy or endodontic therapy — is employed to save an infected or badly damaged tooth without having to remove and replace it. This occurs when a cavity extends fully to the pulp at the tooth’s center, causing it to become infected and generally putting the patient in a good deal of pain. (Yet another reason to maintain semiannual dental checkups; a regular cleaning will help detect incipient problems and fix them before they get out of hand.)
Any sort of trauma — a blow to the head or jaw, for example — can also deeply damage a tooth’s nerve and cause the pulp to become infected and eat away at the bone surrounding it, a condition known as an abscess. An infected pulp cannot heal on its own and must be treated; in some cases an infected pulp can even weaken a patient’s entire immune system. It’s a dangerous, painful condition that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
There are several symptoms of an infected pulp: sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures or sweets; pain; swelling; pain while biting; pain from pressure; or a bad taste that lingers in the mouth. The condition can also be symptom-free, however, making a regular checkup and examination imperative.
A root canal, when necessary, will clean the infected tooth pulp and disinfect the tooth canal or canals. (The only other effective treatment is full extraction.) Once the infection is cleared, the canals are filled to prevent further infection. We’ll then usually place a crown to cover and restore the repaired tooth.
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