Root canal treatment is the removal of the tooth's pulp (nerve tissue), a small, thread-like tissue in the middle of the tooth. Once the damaged, diseased or dead pulp is removed, the remaining space is cleaned, shaped and filled. This procedure seals off the root canal.

The most common causes of pulp damage or death are:

A cracked tooth
A deep cavity
An injury to a tooth, such as a severe knock to the tooth, either recent or in the past
Once the pulp is infected or dead, if left untreated, pus can build up at the root tip in the jawbone, forming an abscess. An abscess can destroy the bone surrounding the tooth and cause pain
How Is a Root Canal Done?

Root canal treatment consists of several steps that usually take place over a few appointments, depending on the situation. These steps are:

First, an opening is made through the back of a front tooth or the biting surface of a back tooth. After the diseased pulp is removed, the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned, enlarged and shaped in preparation for being filled.

If more than one visit is needed, a temporary medicated dressing is placed in the tooth to protect it between appointments.

The temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal permanently filled. A rubbery material called gutta-percha is inserted into each of the canals and is sealed into place with cement. In the final step, a crown is usually placed over the tooth to restore aesthetics and function. If the tooth is very broken down, a post may be required to build it up before placing a crown.