If a tooth develops deep decay, has a deep or leaking filling, or suffers a crack or trauma, the tissue living inside the tooth (the pulp) becomes inflamed or infected, and may sometimes abscess.
One can then experience spontaneous and long-lasting pain, pain on chewing, along with hot and cold sensitivity. If the tooth is also infected and abscessed, there may be swelling of the gum tissue around the tooth; pus may come out from the gum tissue as well. Abscessed teeth that are not treated can cause severe infections in the face and jaws, and in rare cases can spread throughout the body. Occasionally one can have no symptoms for a long time and signs of nerve changes could be found on routine x rays.
Should any of the mentioned changes happen to the nerve, then a root canal may be recommended to eliminate pain/discomfort, help resolve infection and save the tooth to restore structure and function. The root canal treatment is done under local anaethesia to ensure your comfort throughout the procedure. A root canal is the process of cleaning inflamed and infected tissue from within the tooth. A small opening is made in the biting surface of the tooth to gain access to the inflamed/infected pulp tissue. The infected tissue is removed with fine instruments to clean and shape the inside of canals of the tooth. Once all the infected tissue is removed from inside the tooth, the canals are disinfected, filled and sealed with an inert biocompatible material.
Treatments may be completed in one appointment, or may span several appointments depending on severity of inflammation/infection. Following treatment, the symptoms will usually resolve, as the source of the problem (the dying or infected pulp tissue) has been removed. The abscess on the tooth will typically resolve, and the symptoms the tooth had been experiencing should begin to improve. After root canal treatment is completed, we recommend that a crown be placed to restore esthetics and function, and to prevent the weakened tooth from fracture.
For more information see our Root Canal Treatment information page.