When the inner portion of a tooth, called the pulp or nerve, becomes infected or inflamed, the tooth can become painful, sensitive to heat or cold, and the gum tissue can become swollen. Chronic clenching and grinding, repeated dental procedures, and trauma can all cause the pulp to become infected or inflamed.
In order to help preserve the tooth and alleviate pain, a non-surgical root canal treatment can be performed. The pulp contains blood vessels and nerves necessary for tooth growth and development, but once the tooth is mature, it can survive without the pulp. This portion of the tooth is removed during root canal treatment.
During a root canal, a small opening is made in the crown of the tooth allowing access to the pulp. The inflamed or infected pulp is removed, and rubber-like material called gutta percha is placed in the tooth to ensure that the root canals are completely sealed. Once the canals are filled, a temporary filling is placed to seal the opening in the crown.