A root canal is necessary when a tooth has been injured or the pulp is unable to heal and dies. The pulp can die from the tooth fracturing, a deep cavity or decay, or a trauma to the tooth. Any one of these can expose the pulp to the saliva in your mouth and the bacteria in the saliva can infect the inside of the tooth. Pus can build up at the tip of the root and form an abscess. Pain and swelling can occur if left untreated.
The dentist will use special files to clean out the infected or inflamed pulp from the root canal(s). Sometimes between appointments the dentist will place a medication into the chambers to get rid of the bacteria and infection. The canal(s) are enlarged and shaped so that a material called “gutta percha” can be placed in the canal to replace the pulp and to prevent further infection. You may be given an antibiotic to take to help fight the infection if necessary.
A temporary filling material will be placed between visits for easier access to the canals. Once the canal(s) are permanently sealed with the gutta percha a permanent filling or crown will be placed.