A root canal is a dental procedure to remove dead or dying nerve tissue and bacteria from inside a tooth. If a tooth has been badly decayed, traumatized, cracked or subject to a deep restoration or numerous large restorations in its lifetime, the pulp inside the tooth can become infected. Toxins and bacteria progress down the root canals and out through the apex into the surrounding bone and when this happens a dental abscess can form in the area. At this point the options are to either extract or to perform a root canal treatment. In order to treat the abscess or prevent one from forming in the first place, the dentist cleans out the root canals of the tooth with special instruments. The tooth is then sealed off with a particular filling in the canals and then another filling on top of the tooth. Root treated teeth are weakened and should be crowned to prevent long term fracture of the tooth.
The benefits of a successful root canal treatment include the relief of pain and the ability to retain the tooth in comfort and function. There are however risk factors associated with the root canal procedure such as; the possibility of separating instruments in the canals, damage to existing restoration work presently on the tooth receiving treatment, further weakening of the tooth, post-operative pain, swelling or infection, and a chance of failure of the procedure depending on when the dying/dead tooth is diagnosed and treated.