Root canals are tiny passageways that branch off from beneath the top of the tooth, coursing their way vertically downward, until they reach the tip of the root.

Most teeth have between one and four root canals, although it is possible to have even more canals.

Many tooth problems involve infections that spread to the pulp, which is the inner chamber of the tooth containing blood vessels, nerves and other tissues. When the infection becomes worse, it can begin affecting the roots. A traumatic injury to a tooth can also compromise the pulp, leading to similar problems.

A diseased inner tooth can bring a host of problems including pain and sensitivity.  Often, but not always, this may be the first indication of a problem.  Over a period of time, this can develop into an abscess with associated swelling and pain.  We like to avoid this stage with early intervention.

Root canal therapy is a remarkable treatment with a very high rate of success, and involves removing the diseased tissue, halting the spread of infection and restoring the healthy portion of the tooth. In fact, root canal therapy is designed to save a problem tooth; before the procedure was developed and gained acceptance, the only alternative for treating a diseased tooth was extraction.  Some roots are straight and some are curved.  Some teeth have multiple root systems.  It is the curved, multiple roots which are the most complex to treat, and in some cases are best treated by an endodontist (root canal specialist).  All root canal therapy requires great precision and meticulous attention to detail, which will result in a highly successful result.  Following root canal therapy it is very common for the treated tooth to become brittle and more prone to fracture.  It is for this reason that it is usually recommended for multi-rooted teeth to be restored with a buildup and crown, to minimize the risk of splitting the tooth.  Once splitting of a tooth occurs, it is usually not possible to save the tooth, so it is critical to place the crown as soon as possible following root canal therapy.

Procedure

Root canal therapy usually entails one to three visits. During the first visit, a small hole is drilled through the top of the tooth and into the inner chamber. Diseased tissue is removed, the inner chamber cleansed and disinfected, and the tiny canals reshaped. The cleansed chamber and canals are filled with an elastic material and medication designed to prevent infection. If necessary, the drilled hole is temporarily filled until a permanent seal is made with a buildup and crown.

Most patients who have root canal experience little or no discomfort or pain, and enjoy a restored tooth that can last almost as long as its healthy original.