A root canal treatment is performed if you have an infection in the centre of your tooth. Root canal treatment is not painful and can save a tooth that might otherwise have to be removed completely.
What is the root canal in a tooth?
In the centre of each tooth, under the outer layers of enamel and dentine, is a collection of nerves and blood vessels called the dental pulp. The vessels of the pulp enter the tooth through a hole in the root tip, or root apex, and run along the root canal to a space in the centre of the tooth crown called the pulp cavity, or chamber.
The function of the pulp is to:
- Supply the cells that create dentine with oxygen and nutrients.
- Detect stimuli such as pressure or temperature which could damage the tooth.
If the pulp dies it will decompose and leak out of the root causing the bone around the root apex to become inflamed, especially if the dead pulp is infected with germs (bacteria). The body’s immune system will attempt to heal the bone but will not be able to cure it completely because the dead pulp will continue to leak out from the root canal and cause further damage.
The only way to effectively treat dead or dying pulp is to remove it. This can be achieved by:
- Root canal treatment (RCT), or having a root filling: this procedure aims to remove the dead pulp and any infection from inside a tooth and then to place a filling within the root canal system that prevents future bacterial growth/spread within the space.
- Tooth extraction: once the tooth containing the dead pulp has been removed, your body will itself be able to deal with any residual infection.