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Root Canals

When the nerve of a tooth becomes infected, root canal treatment can save the tooth. How do you know if you have an infected tooth? Some of the signs are heat and cold sensitivity, swelling and pain, or a bad taste in your mouth. Or, you may experience no symptoms at all and not realize that you have a dental problem.


The white outside portion of a tooth is called the enamel. Inside the enamel is another hard layer, the dentin. There’s a small chamber at the center of the dentin called the pulp chamber. Inside the pulp chamber is the tooth pulp, a soft tissue made up of nerves, arteries, and veins. The pulp extends from the pulp chamber all the way to the tip of the root through a narrow channel called the root canal.

In general, teeth in the front of the mouth have only one root canal, while teeth in the back have two, three or four root canals.


How do teeth become infected?

Deep cavities allow bacteria to get into the pulp chamber. These bacteria cause infection, and the pulp dies. The pus from the infection may build up at the root tip and make a hole in the bone. This is called an abscess.


A blow to a tooth may also cause the pulp to die and then become infected. An infected tooth will never heal on its own, and as it gets worse, it will continue to be a source of infection that weakens your immune system. This can affect your entire body. This damage to the bone and the swelling inside the bone can also be excruciatingly painful, and even life-threatening. Years ago, an infected tooth would have to be extracted, but today, we can save your tooth with root canal treatment.

Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment and subsequent tooth restoration usually involves three steps.

  • First, your dentist removes the infection to promote healing.
  • Next, he places a post to strengthen the tooth.
  • Finally, he crowns the tooth to protect it.


Your dentist wants the entire procedure to be comfortable for you, so the first thing he’ll do is make sure you’re thoroughly numb.


To get at the infection, he makes an opening through the top of the tooth down into the pulp chamber. With a dental file, your dentist (or endodontist) carefully cleans out the infected tissue and shapes the canals to receive the filling material. X-rays are taken to make sure that all of the infected pulp is removed.


Sometimes it’s necessary to strengthen a tooth with a post. The post is cemented down inside one of the root canals.


Making a crown is the last step in restoring your tooth. It protects your tooth and gives you back your smile.