Teeth have blood vessels and nerves at their centre. This living tissue is called the pulp in a space called the root canal. Front teeth often just have one root canal, whereas the back teeth may have three or more.
If your tooth’s pulp becomes damaged, the blood vessels may die. This results in a 'dead tooth' and the pulp becomes infected. There are a number of ways that your tooth's pulp can be damaged, these include
All of these conditions can lead to bacteria getting trapped in your teeth. There is then the possibility that your tooth pulp will become infected, causing the tooth to die. This can cause a collection of pus (an abscess) at the root tip. Symptoms include
swelling in the mouth
severe swellings in the face
The aim of a root canal treatment is to get rid of the damaged pulp and the bacteria that are causing the infection. It involves removing the dead nerves and blood vessels from the centre of your tooth. This is done by drilling a hole through the top of your tooth to the root canal and removing the dead tissue. The empty root canal system is then disinfected, filled and a permanent seal is put over the top of your tooth.
Your dentist may recommend that you have the tooth taken out (extracted) instead if there will not be enough tooth left to restore back to function.
Following root treatment your dentist may recommend that you have a crown placed over the tooth to protect it, however this is not always the case and your dentist will advise you.