A Root Canal procedure must be performed when the pulp within a tooth dies or becomes infected. The pulp is comprised of the tooth’s nerve and blood supply, and other soft tissues. Unfortunately, an infection in the pulp chamber or root canal will not heal, it will only progress, destroying the pulp. If the infection reaches the jaw bone itself it can create an abscess. This infection will almost certainly compromise the immune system, affecting the entire body. It can also be extremely painful, and potentially life-threatening. Severe gum disease can allow bacteria to reach the root tip itself, where the infection will take hold. From there, it then moves up the root canal to the pulp chamber, and may also cause an abscess. Traumatic injury to the tooth may also kill the pulp, invariably causing an infection.
First, all decay is removed from the tooth, and an opening into the pulp chamber is created. A dental file is then used to completely remove the infected pulp and open the root canals for the filling material that will replace it. At this stage, x-rays are taken to verify that all of the infected tissue has been removed. If a large amount of tooth structure must be removed, a post may be placed in one of the root canals to reinforce the tooth. Normally, a crown will then be placed over the remaining tooth. This is done because root canal-treated teeth frequently crack. The crown will support the underlying tooth structure, and provide a strong, durable biting surface. Root Canals can be done in one visit, but sometimes a second visit is required. If there is an extensive infection, your dentist will apply medication to the root canal and pulp chamber. He will then seal the tooth with a temporary filling, allowing the medication a few days to neutralize the remaining infection. On the second visit the tooth is permanently filled and crowned.
If a root canal procedure fails to arrest the infection in the jaw, an apicoectomy may be the last hope. To prevent the infection from progressing, and the resulting abscess from growing, a small incision is made through the gums into the jaw just above the affected tooth. Once exposed, the infected tissue is removed. With the infection stopped and the incision closed, new bone will fill in the abscessed area.