A root canal is a treatment used to save a tooth that is badly decayed and/or becomes infected. Nerve and pulp, the soft area within the center of the tooth, can become irritated, inflamed, and infected due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures on a tooth, large fillings, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the face. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed.
Root canal procedures have the reputation of being painful. In reality, most patients report that the procedure itself is no more painful than having a filling placed. The discomfort experienced in the period leading up to dental care is truly the painful period of time, not the root canal procedure itself. During root canal treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterwards, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.