It used to be that if a tooth was infected or the nerve in the tooth was dying, the tooth would have to be extracted. Today, because of a procedure known as root canal treatment the infection can be treated, the injured nerve taken out and the pain associated with such symptoms alleviated.
A common reason for root canal treatment is an infected or abscessed tooth, which may result from a deep cavity, periodontal disease, or even a fractured tooth. Sometimes trauma like a sharp blow to the mouth can result in damage to the pulp (nerve) of the tooth. Should you have symptoms such as swelling, sensitivity to hot and cold or discomfort on touching your tooth, a dentist should be consulted immediately.
Root canal treatment removes the pulp tissue, which is composed of a nerve and blood supply within the tooth. After all the material has been removed from within the root, the canal or canals (if it is a multi rooted tooth) are sterilized and sealed with a material that prevents bacteria from re-entering.
Because a root canal removes everything which feeds the tooth and keeps it alive, the tooth will become very brittle after a period of time. This time period varies from person to person. It is for this reason that the tooth should be restored as quickly as possible and your dentist might recommend that a post and a crown be placed as a final restoration. Back teeth are usually crowned or capped shortly after a root canal has been performed to prevent the tooth from shattering due to the pressure put on it by chewing.
Root canal work is not uncomfortable, and in some instances can be performed in one visit. The discomfort associated with root canal is due to the infection associated with the need for the root canal. If there is recurring pain after the root canal has been started, or after it is completed be sure to notify your dentist as soon as possible.