Root canals have earned themselves a poor reputation over the years. They’re one of the most recognizable, and most-feared, dental procedures around. But despite their bad reputation, they continue to be relied upon to save countless teeth around the world, and for good reason.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is the common name for endodontic treatment. It’s a procedure that treats the pulp of the tooth after it’s become infected, inflamed, or died. The goal is to end the pain in the tooth, save the nerve of the tooth and keep the tooth itself alive.

What Does It Treat, Exactly?

The pulp of your tooth is a soft substance found in the middle of your tooth, below the enamel. It’s made of nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissue.

The chamber all of this material is found in is called the pulp chamber. It’s a hollow space inside your tooth that connects to your root canals. Most teeth have one root canal, some have several.

Problems start when this tooth pulp becomes infected and inflamed. This can be for several reasons:

• Deep decay that’s given bacteria a path into the center of the tooth
• Trauma to the tooth. This can cover everything from getting smacked in the face through to poorly made crowns not distributing pressure properly and causing damage.
• Abscesses at the root of the tooth

Why Get A Root Canal?

A root canal is like a final line of defense when saving an infected or inflamed tooth. Most dentists would rather save a tooth than extract it. It’s always better to keep your natural teeth as long as possible.

So rather than extract the tooth, you clean out the infected area and try to preserve it.

Root Canals and Pain

While root canal treatments are heavily associated with pain, the relationship is often backwards.

The common misconception is that root canals cause pain. Like any surgical procedure there will be some discomfort afterwards. The freshly cleaned out area will be tender and sore for a few days. This is unavoidable.

But the reality is root canals are designed to alleviate and end pain. Most of the pain associated with root canals comes from the damage to the pulp of the tooth. The pain is why you get a root canal, not because you got one.

Root Canal Procedure

A root canal is performed using very small, precise cutting and scraping tools.

A small hole is made in the top of the infected tooth. The precise tools are then inserted through the hole, and the infected pulp is removed. Local anesthetic is used at the time, and the procedure itself is no less comfortable than a tooth filling.

After the pulp chamber is thoroughly cleaned, the now-empty chamber is filled with a rubber-like material to prevent further infection. To top it all off, a dental crown or inlay is used to plug the hole and protect the structural integrity of the tooth.