The root canal system of a tooth contains the dental pulp and extends from the crown of the tooth to the end of the root. A single tooth can have more than one root canal. The pulp consists of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue and nourishes the tooth upon its first appearance. After the maturation of the tooth, the pulp can be removed from the pulp chamber.
An infection of the pulp (which can also spread to the end of the root canals) causes inflammation and swelling in the tissues around the end of the tooth. This leads to tooth pain and in extreme cases swelling of the face (dental abscess). Extraction of the tooth seems like a simple solution but may cause problems to adjacent teeth and can prove to be costlier.
Root Canal Therapy is an attempt to save the infected tooth and mainly involves removal of the pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria, and any decay, filling the root canal with special, medicated, dental materials, and finally sealing the tooth with a filling or crown thus restoring the tooth to its full function. In most cases, the inflamed tissue at the end of the tooth will heal naturally. Root Canal Treatment may also be needed in case of trauma and extensive dental restorative work.
The treatment usually requires to be done in multiple appointments for a thorough elimination of the infection. Root Canal treatments are highly successful and usually last a lifetime, although on occasion, a tooth may have to be retreated due to new infections.