What is a root canal?

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Your dentist uses root canal treatment to find the cause and then treat problems of the tooth’s soft core, also called the dental pulp. Years ago, teeth with diseased or injured pulps were removed. Today, root canal treatment has given dentists a safe way to save teeth.

Treatment often involves from one to three visits. During treatment, your general dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) removes the diseased pulp. The pulp chamber and root canal(s) of the tooth are then cleaned and sealed.

Here’s how your tooth is saved through treatment:
  • First, an opening is made through the crown of the tooth into the pulp chamber.
    The pulp is then removed.
  • The root canal is cleaned and shaped to a form that can be filled.
  • Medications may be put in the pulp chamber and root canal to help get rid of germs and prevent infection.
  • A temporary filling will be placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits. Your dentist may leave the tooth open for a few days to drain. You might also be given medicine to help control infection that may have spread beyond the tooth.
  • The temporary filling is removed, and the pulp chamber and root canal are cleaned and filled.
  • In the final step, a gold or porcelain crown is usually placed over the tooth. If an endodontist performs the treatment, he or she will recommend that you return to your family dentist for this final step.
  • The crown of the tooth is then restored.