In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you'd probably lose that tooth. Today, with a dental procedure called root canal treatment, you may save that tooth.
Inside each tooth is the pulp or root canal. The pulp consists of the nerve and blood vessels. The nerve is the vestige of the tissue that originally formed the tooth.
When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp, thereby causing an infection inside the tooth. Without treatment, the pulp will die and pus builds up at the root tip in the jawbone, forming an abscess (an infection). If the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result. Certain byproducts of the infection can injure your jawbones and your overall health. Without treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.
Treatment usually involves from one to three visits. During treatment, your dentist or an endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) removes the diseased pulp. Next, the root canal(s) of the tooth are cleaned and sealed. Often, teeth that have endodontic treatment should have a crown placed in order to strengthen the remaining structure. Then, as long as you to continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups so that the root(s) of the restored tooth are nourished by the surrounding tissues, your restored tooth can last a lifetime.
Most of the time a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort. Best of all, it can save your tooth and your smile!