A root canal is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed. Then the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected.
Why do I need a root canal?
When a tooth's 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 swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head. Abscess can also cause bone loss around the tip of the root.
What caused damage to the tooth's nerve?
A tooth's nerve and pulp can become irritated, inflamed, and infected due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures on a tooth, and/or large fillings, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the face.
Does a root canal hurt?
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.
What should one expect after the root canal?
For the first few days following the completion of a root canal, the tooth may feel sensitive due to natural tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This sensitivity or discomfort usually can be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or Aleve. Most patients can return to their normal activities the next day.
Until your root canal procedure is completely finished -- that is to say, the permanent filling is in place and/or the crown, it's wise to minimize chewing on the tooth under repair. This step will help avoid recontamination of the interior of the tooth and also may prevent a fragile tooth from breaking before the tooth can be fully restored.
WebMD.com: "Dental Health and Root Canals"; Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on March 17, 2019