In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you’d probably lose that tooth. Today, with a special procedure called a root canal treatment, you may save that tooth.
Inside each tooth, there is the pulp and the nerve. The never is the vestige of the tissue that originally formed the tooth. Once the tooth has been in the mouth for a time, the functioning of the nerve is no longer necessary.
When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp. Germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. Left without treatment, pus builds up at the root tip in the jawbone, forming a “pus-pocket” called an abscess. An abscess can cause the pulp tissue to die. If the infected pulp is not removed, it can result in pain and swelling. Certain by-products of the infection can injure your jawbones and your overall health. Without treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.
Treatment often involves from one to three visits. During treatment, the dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) removes the diseased pulp. Next, the pulp chamber and root canal(s) of the tooth are cleaned and sealed. Often posterior (back) teeth that have endodontic treatment should have a cast crown placed in order to strengthen the remaining structure. Then, as long as you 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.