Root canals are very small thin divisions that branch off from the soft tissue or pulp of teeth. When the pulp becomes infected due to a deep cavity or fracture that allows bacteria to seep in, or injury due to trauma, it can die. Damaged or dead pulp causes increased blood flow and cellular activity, and pressure cannot be relieved from inside the tooth. Pain in the tooth is commonly felt when biting down, chewing on it and applying hot or cold foods and drinks.
Because the tooth will not heal by itself, root canal therapy is necessary to save the life of the tooth. Without treatment, the infection will spread, bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate, and the tooth may either fall-out or require extraction. Though an extraction is cheaper, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge which can be more expensive than root canal therapy. Most dentists today recommend that if at all possible, patients try to keep their original teeth.
In root canal therapy a channel drilled from the crown into the pulp chamber allows the dentist to clean the diseased pulp from the area and insert antiseptic medication that will fight further infection. Once the site heals, dentists place permanent fillings in the treated tooth.
Last updated: 16-Jun-05