Inside the tooth there is a hollow center, the pulp chamber, containing sensitive tissue made of blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves that supply oxygen, nutrients, and feeling to the tooth. This pulp continues all the way to the tip of the root, in the jaw. When there is damage to the tooth and blood flow is impaired, the pulp can become infected and cannot recover. This results in infection, abscess, dead nerves and “dead tooth,” also know as “non-vital” tooth.
If this happens to you, you may notice discoloration, pain, hot-and-cold sensitivity that doesn’t go away, sore gums, or swelling.
Root canal treatment may be necessary when a very deep cavity, a crack, a chip or a traumatic injury causes the tooth to lose blood supply and creates a hollow root canal and pulp chamber. The living nerve, blood vessels and pulp tissue have died and your dentist or oral surgeon will have to fill the canal to prevent serious infection.
During a root canal, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed, the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected. The canals are filled and permanently sealed with a rubber-like material. This keeps the canals free from infections or contaminates. Later, the tooth is restored with a crown or a filling for protection. When this restoration is completed, it can function like any other tooth.
Endodontic treatment, (root canal treatment,) can help maintain your natural smile as well as help you continue eating the foods you love. With proper dental care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last a lifetime.