A root canal is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected.
Root canal procedures are performed when the nerve of the tooth becomes infected or the pulp becomes damaged. During the procedure, the nerve and pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed.
When nerve tissue or pulp is damaged, it breaks down and bacteria begin to multiply within the pulp chamber. The bacteria and other decayed debris can cause an infection or abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth. An abscess occurs when the infection spreads all the way past the ends of the roots of the tooth.
In addition to an abscess, an infection in the root canal of a tooth can cause:
Symptoms to look for include:
Alternatives to a Root Canal
The only alternative to a root canal procedure is having the tooth extracted and replaced with a bridge, implant, or removable partial denture to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These alternatives not only are more expensive than a root canal procedure but require more treatment time and additional procedures to adjacent teeth and supporting tissues.
Root canal procedures have the reputation of being painful. Actually, most people report that the procedure itself is no more painful than having a filling placed. The discomfort experienced in the period leading up to a seeking of dental care is truly the painful period of time, not the root canal procedure itself.
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