Root canal treatment (sometimes referred to as Endodontics) is indicated in the case of an infected pulp, or nerve, of the tooth. The nerve of the tooth may become infected in cases of deep decay or damage to the tooth. Once the nerve becomes infected, it cannot heal itself and must be treated. The infection can spread to the bone surrounding the tooth root, resulting in an abscess. In these cases, root canal treatment may be indicated to restore the tooth and save it from extraction. Symptoms of an infected pulp include sensitivity to cold or hot, persistent pain that lingers or wakes you up at night, pain with biting or chewing, or the presence of swelling or a "pimple" that appears on the gum. Sometimes, there are no symptoms, and a patient is unaware of the problem until a check-up.
In order to relieve the pain and disease process related to an infected tooth, root canal therapy may be performed by your dentist. A root canal involves the removal of the diseased nerve tissue and the cleaning and disinfection of the canals that contain the nerve tissue. The tooth is then filled with a restorative material to seal off the tooth and prevent further infection. As the removal of nerve tissue tends to dry out a tooth and make it more brittle and susceptible to breaking, a crown is typically placed on the tooth to protect it after a root canal is completed.