An abscess or a deep cavity can literally take the life right out of your tooth. There’s a delicate, living nerve (called the pulp) inside of each of your teeth which can die or be irreversibly damaged if it’s subjected to certain types of trauma. Trauma can come in the form of an infection (such as a cavity or an abscess) or an injury (perhaps the result of a forceful blow to the mouth). An injury that harms the nerve while leaving the rest of the tooth intact will generally need to be treated with root canal therapy in order to prevent long-term damage.
Contrary to jokes from late night comedians, having a root canal treatment can be comfortable and uneventful. The main goal of the procedure is to remove the unhealthy nerve from the center of the tooth via a small opening in the biting surface or the backside of the tooth. However, no treatment will be performed until the tooth and the surrounding tissues have been numbed with local anesthetics. The canal inside the tooth that once housed the nerve will then be cleaned, sterilized, filled, and sealed with a safe and durable filling material.
The final step will involve closing the access opening with a permanent filling or securing the tooth with a dental crown.
Again, contrary to its reputation, a root canal treatment that is performed under local anesthetics is typically pain-free. A badly infected tooth may be more difficult to numb, and antibiotics are sometimes recommended to bring things under control. Following the treatment, prescription pain relievers are sometimes offered, although many patients are able to control their mild discomfort with the same medications that they would normally use for a headache.