Q: What exactly is root canal therapy?
A: Root canal therapy is a procedure a dentist, or an endodontist, performs to treat problems in the soft core inside the tooth, the material known as the dental pulp. It is the pulp that holds the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that resides within the root canal space inside of a tooth. A deep cavity or a crack in the tooth can let bacteria get into the pulp. That causes an infection that eventually will create a pocket of pus at the tip of the tooth’s root in the jawbone. That pocket of pus is called an abscess. An abscess causes swelling, can become quite painful and can also damage the bone around the tooth.
The first step in a root canal procedure is making an opening in the crown of the tooth through which the dentist can remove the infected pulp. Often times root canal therapy can be performed in one appointment but not always. If there is quite a bit of infection, then the interior of the tooth is cleaned out and sealed with a temporary filling at the first appointment. When the infection is fully gone, the dentist will fill or seal the root canals in a second appointment. After that, the tooth needs to be protected with a crown in order to prevent it from fracturing.
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