What is a Root Canal?

Damaged Tooth in need of a Root CanalIn the past, the only treatment for a painful or infected tooth was to extract it. Over the last several decades, endodontic, or root canal therapy has been developed into a highly reliable method of salvaging such teeth for a long, comfortable, and functional life. Nevertheless, the subject is complex, and there are potential complications.

The “root canal” of a tooth is the space deep inside where the nerve and blood vessels, or pulp, is normally found in a healthy tooth. Pain, hypersensitivity, or infection of the pulp can be caused by tooth decay, deep fillings, cracks in teeth, or trauma. Treatment involves removing the infected tissue from the canal and sealing it from further bacterial invasion with a filling. The body can then heal any infection that has spread beyond the tooth into the surrounding jawbone.

We are frequently asked why an infected tooth cannot be cured by a course of antibiotics, homeopathic remedies, or other medical treatments without doing the formal root canal treatment. The answer is that once the inner root canal space of a tooth is infected, the pulp tissue and its blood supply are destroyed. The white blood cells, which normally fight infection, can no longer get into the tooth. The root canal space then only contains infected debris, which continually seeds bacteria and their toxins out into the surrounding jawbone. The infection will never fully go away until the debris is removed and the canal space is disinfected and sealed.

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