The natural cavity within the center of the tooth is called a "root canal". The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the canal. The tooth's nerves lies within this chamber. A tooth's nerve and pulp can become irritated, inflamed, and infected due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures on a tooth, and/or large fillings, a crack or chip, or trauma to the face.
Sometimes no symptoms are present; however, signs you may need a root canal include:
A root canal requires one or more office visits. The first step in the procedure is to take an X-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone. Local anesthesia will be used to numb the area near the tooth.
An access hole will then be drilled into the tooth. The pulp along with bacteria, the decayed nerve tissue and related debris is removed from the tooth. The cleaning out process is accomplished using root canal files. A series of these files of increasing diameter are each subsequently placed into the access hole and worked down the full length of the tooth to scrape and scrub the sides of the root canals. Water is used periodically to flush away the debris.
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it is sealed. At the next appointment, a permanent filling is placed to fill the interior of the tooth. The final step may involve further restoration of the tooth which will usually include a protective crown to prevent it from breaking and restore it to full function. The dentist will discuss the need of any additional dental work with you.